By Curt Alan, Pastor of Missions, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, NC, and…Hilary’s husband
There are a number of missions sending agencies that can facilitate the sending of missionaries to the nations. At the same time, our response to the great commission isn’t to be limited by missions sending agencies – a relatively modern invention. Frankly, as we examine the historical church, we have to acknowledge the role that merchants and businessmen and others had in bringing the gospel to the unreached from the very beginning.
In turn, we need to explore all avenues to send those obedient to the call to follow Christ to the ends of the earth – not only traditional missionaries but also kingdom-minded professionals willing to transfer to jobs in the 10/40 window, entrepreneurs willing to start businesses in closed contexts, and students willing to pursue graduate studies in places with little or no gospel witness.
For example, the successful corporate guy who, as a mature Christian, begins to believe that the call on his life to follow Jesus may be leading him to go to the nations shouldn’t simply be counseled to quit his job, relinquish the skills and experience he’s developed over many years, and go to seminary in preparation for a life as a career missionary.
While that may ultimately be exactly what the Lord is leading him to do, prayer and godly counsel may reveal another path to the nations.
Perhaps this businessman works for a large multi-national company that has offices around the world. He may well be able to apply within his company for a transfer to a similar job in an overseas context – affording him self-sustaining access to a culture (and to a strata of culture) that is completely unreached and unengaged. In that instance, with guidance, training, and assistance, he could be connected to full-time apostolic resources – full-time missionaries and church planters – that might be working in that context as they extend the reach of the Gospel witness and strategic efforts in that place.
One of the things we consistently tell people in our church is to do what you’ve been gifted and trained to do to the very best of your ability to the glory of God; but do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.
All decisions to go should be prayerfully nurtured and assessed every step of the way.
No matter the avenue, the local church has a huge responsibility to assess, equip, and support those that are sent out. We must do all we can to not only counsel the means by which followers of Christ go overseas but to prepare them well and hold them accountable to their stewardship of call to go.
Often, I’ll talk with people who can carefully recount the burden that the Lord has put on their heart for a specific people group or nation. They can detail how the Lord has clearly spoken to them and called them to take the gospel to these nations.
In situations like this, I always ask a series of simple questions intended to assess the nature of this call on their lives and their readiness to go.
“ Can you name the last 3 people you shared the gospel with?”
“Who have you been discipling in the last year?”
“Have you ever been consistently discipled?”
If these questions are met with blank stares or responses like “my schedule just doesn’t allow me time for that,” or “it is very hard/awkward/or prohibited to have spiritual conversations where I work/study/hang out” I know we have a problem.
So, you’re telling me that you want to move to a context and culture that you haven’t lived in before nor completely understand, where it may be illegal to share the gospel, and learn a language that you may not know yet and do something that you can’t be bothered to do in the culture in which you’re most comfortable, in a language you’ve known since you were a child, and where no laws prevent you from sharing?
Without a doubt, Christ can do anything – all power and authority have been given to him and we can do all things through him. However, where is the acknowledgement of who Christ is in the disciple that wants to respond to go to the nations but has never gone to his neighbor, his co-worker, or his roommate?
The Great Commission was given to all disciples – no matter the zip code or time zone.
Some reports indicate that there are nearly 7,000 unreached people groups around the world – with little to no access to the gospel. That’s nearly 3 billion people who have had no opportunity to even hear the name of Jesus.
If we believe scripture that clearly states that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, what is our answer to Paul’s questions?
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
Faced with this reality, trusting in the complete authority of the Lord, and confident in the promise of him who goes with us, what is our response?