The speaker at a pastors conference requested, “If you have a missionary from your own church who is either on deputation or is on the field, please stand.” Out of a congregation of one hundred fundamental Baptist pastors, only seven stood! And that was twenty years ago! Is something wrong when only one in fourteen of our churches produces a missionary for the foreign field? Someone said once, “We have time and money for what is important to us.” If churches do not have missionaries, it is probably because producing missionaries is just not very important to them. But suppose a church does care about its missionary barrenness—what can it do? Let me give three suggestions:
First, we must have the right priority. Why does my church exist? Are we only a group of people that meets to worship God and edify one another? Is our assignment only to be there as a witness in our own town? Is our responsibility to the Great Commission met by supporting a few missionaries that come from other churches? Literally thousands of people groups are unreached and unengaged. Thousands of languages are without scripture. Probably half the world’s people have no idea who Christ is or that He died for their sins. For many churches, the Saviour’s Great Commission is low on the priority list! What other conclusion can we reach? Our church’s barren condition will not change until we want it to, until we give missions top priority.
Secondly, if God is going to bless our church with missionaries, we must do some serious praying. When missions is not our top priority, it shows in our prayers. James said, “…ye have not, because ye ask not.” Jesus commanded us to pray for laborers, but I’m afraid that very few individuals or churches do. Rachel begged, “Give me children, or else I die.” We should be praying, “Lord, give us missionaries, or else we die!” Churches are dying. Could it be because they have forgotten why they exist? How often do you hear someone pray for laborers? Why don’t we pray? Are missionaries too much trouble and too expensive? In Acts thirteen, the church at Antioch fasted and prayed. What were they pleading for? I assume they were praying for missionaries because that’s what they got! How long has it been since your church fasted and prayed, begging God to call out missionaries from your congregation? Oh, the church might pray for a laborer to be their pastor, or for one to work with their youth, or maybe a laborer to direct their music program; and isn’t God gracious to answer that prayer! Why isn’t God giving us missionaries? You tell us, Brother James, “…ye have not, because ye ask not.”
Finally, if the barren womb of the church is to be healed, we must preach missions. People talk about the things that are important to them. If reaching the world with the gospel is the heartbeat of our church, we will not be able to stop talking about it! A church that has visiting missionaries on deputation or furlough hears an occasional missionary sermon, but we need messages on missions from the pastor and teachers. Many churches have mission conferences and hear good preaching on missions for a few days; but if missions is to have top priority, as it should, then we need to hear about it every week!
We need red-hot preaching that challenges our people to surrender to Christ. I often ask young people, “Have you ever considered being a missionary?” When they tell me no, I want to ask, “Are you not listening or are we not preaching total surrender?” How could anyone sit in a church and not come under conviction to surrender his life to God? (And we all know that surrender means, “Lord, I will go anywhere and do anything; You call the shots!”) I say, preach about unconditional surrender and dying to self. Make all, especially the young people, sweat and squirm until they decide to really seek God’s will. You say, “We’ll lose them!” Look around, Brother, we are already losing eighty-five or ninety percent of our young people to the world. How much worse could it get? Could it be that they see the old folks just playing church? Could it be that we preachers are not demanding that they give their lives to a cause for which to live, and maybe even die? We need preaching that promotes missions!
It is high time that people in our churches be reminded why the church exists. Christ’s last command must become our first concern. The church must offer its best and brightest to God for missionary service, as the Antioch church did by sending Barnabas and Saul. Maybe the walls of the church could be plastered with prayer letters, mission posters, banners with missionary slogans, and foreign flags! Producing missionaries means that we win souls, baptise them, and train them for Christian service! Our prayers, both public and private, should include entreaties for laborers for the harvest field. If a church cannot birth a missionary at least every ten or fifteen years, then it’s time to talk with the Great Physician about its spiritual sterility.