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Feature Articles

Feature Articles

by Rex Cobb, Director

A Christian could not invest his life in any occupation more valuable than translating the eternal, living words of God into a language in which it has never existed. The Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without a Bible. With modern technology, Bible translation should be easier and faster than at any time in history. Not long ago, a Bible translator typed and retyped the New Testament twenty-five times before it was ready to print. Despite digital technology, it is still a very difficult work. It requires proper spiritual, physical, mental, intellectual, and linguistic preparation. Praise God that some see the need for Bible translation and are expressing a desire to engage in this worthy work, and we do not want to discourage them. However, they must “count the cost” and be aware of the long-term commitment required and the endurance needed to overcome many obstacles. While each language and place have their special challenges, you can be sure that the work of Bible translation is not easy anywhere.

The prospective translator must understand the futility of beginning without the proper training in linguistics and translation principles. Bible translation must be done right! To spend fifteen years producing a New Testament, only to discover that the people cannot understand it or do not accept it is tragic, but it has happened. Good, well-intentioned people with sound doctrine do not necessarily produce good Bible translations.

A BBTI graduate, who we will call Fred Jones, works with an unreached people group in a dangerous and restricted part of the world. He compares his efforts to translate the Bible for this ethnic group to pushing a rope uphill. Not all places will seem as impossible as Brother Fred’s. His is probably a worst-case scenario, but there is an enemy with many wiles who wants to stop all Bible translation. Fred attempted to reach part of this group who lives in a country controlled by godless atheists. The leaders hate Christianity, and they sometimes hate the ethnic people who will not give up their cultural and linguistic identity. After a time, Fred was forced to move to a neighboring country and work with another part of the same group. However, the situation there is not much better. First, he must have a reason to justify being in the country, and “missionary” is not one of the options. He must operate some type of business or offer a skill that would benefit the country. The government of the second country is controlled by a religion that opposes Christianity, and those in power also hate the ethnic group that Fred loves. After a few years, the government began to practice genocide against Fred’s people. Men from his neighborhood disappeared; some were reported killed and others imprisoned. When Fred and two other foreign workers bought food for the wives and children of the missing men, they were accused of aiding terrorists. Two of them were jailed, but Fred escaped before being arrested. Nevertheless, he is determined to return and with God’s help push the rope further up the hill. Yes, there is political and religious opposition, but Fred is proving that it can be overcome.

The Bible translator must expect to push the rope up a steep linguistic hill. Unless the major language is English, he must first learn the trade language and then the heart language of the people group. The first language is difficult, but the second one is often much more complex, without a language school to attend. Since the second language Fred needed to learn had never been written, he had to learn it without books and teachers, develop an alphabet, and write the words in the correct morphological and syntactical order. Thankfully, Fred and his wife learned these skills at BBTI.

It is always difficult to move God’s Word from one language to another. It can be painstakingly slow. The missionary translator should never attempt the task of Bible translation without the help of native speakers, but it is challenging to find them. There may be no Christians among the group, and even if there are, they may be afraid to help. Sometimes, helpers will only work secretly.

The Bible translator must go and live where people do not have a Bible, and usually that means living in inhospitable places. Places where translation work is needed can be unpleasant, difficult, and sometimes dangerous. Primitive living conditions require enormous amounts of time and energy to accomplish simple daily tasks. (No hot showers or electric range!)

Consider Fred’s wife. She must be as tough as he is. She raises her children and homeschools them under the same conditions. She, too, must learn both the trade language and the heart language of the people group. She must learn to understand and love a people that are sometimes hard to love. At BBTI, Fred’s wife received the same pre-field training as Fred. This enables her to learn and cope with the culture and analyze and learn the language. She can communicate and teach women that may be culturally off limits to Fred. They make a good team.

Bible translation usually proceeds slowly. Often it is put on the back burner because of all the other work that the missionary must do. He needs to evangelize those around him and teach them the Word of God, even though it does not yet exist in the language. He must work at his business to retain his visa and good standing with the government. Some supporters may question why he is not winning the multitudes and establishing churches reported by other missionaries in other places. He must report to them and explain why he is not producing the same results.

As we pray for laborers for God’s harvest field, let us also pray that many of these will labor in the work of Bible translation. Pray that our homes and churches will produce soldiers of the Jones’ caliber equipped for God to send. Pray for laborers who can patiently endure the spiritual, mental, and physical hardness required to accomplish the task and push the rope up a steep hill!

We cannot overestimate the value of a missionary. Humanly speaking, he is the only one standing between a group of people and Hell! If a missionary leaves the field prematurely, he is often discouraged and feels that he has failed the Lord and those people who believed in him. He, his church, and his mission agency should be asking some questions: What went wrong? What could have prevented it? And what should we do now? A missionary that we know well worked with his wife and children in a very remote mountain village, accessed only by plane or helicopter. Alone, they faced a very frightening experience and were in imminent physical danger. Almost miraculously, they were rescued by helicopter. They returned to the States very traumatized. Their pastor—the one who should care most—spoke with them for less than one minute and then apparently wrote them off as quitters. Talk about adding insult to injury! What they needed was a thorough debriefing with caring, competent counselors.


Gospel Furthering Fellowship (GFF), under the direction of BBTI graduate Rodney Myers, specializes in proper preparation for the mission field. This includes a strong recommendation that the missionary acquire Advanced Missionary Training at BBTI. They also offer help and debriefing, not only for their own members, but for any Baptist missionary. Consider the words of GFF Missionary Care Director Chris Luppino in his article, The Crisis that Few are Talking About:


The closing challenge of Jesus to His disciples in Mark 16:15 is clear, compelling, and challenging. They were to take the Gospel to every living person in every corner of the world. It is Jesus’ commission to the Christians of every generation during the church age. He highlighted one of the challenges to fulfilling His command in Matthew 9:37 where He said, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.”


In comparison to the need, the number of laborers (missionaries) is small. In the face of the challenging task of cross-cultural evangelism and church planting, many of the laborers are weak. The inherent weaknesses are amplified by the fact that missionaries are often sent woefully under-prepared. The director of our mission was challenging a pastor with some of the difficulties the missionary that his church was sending was likely to encounter and with the need for him and his wife to be properly prepared. In response to a list of the challenges that the missionary could reasonably be expected to face the pastor replied, “He will just have to learn as he goes along.” [Fortunately, that missionary couple did attend BBTI and are now successfully learning a tribal language that people told them is impossible to learn!]

Once laborers are sent, they are often neglected. If they “crash and burn” or just quietly go away (leave the field), the ridicule, blame, and scorn is usually targeted at the missionary. They are labeled as quitters, not being “tough” enough, not being made of the right stuff, or being a John Mark. We have no words to describe the sending church, sending pastor, or sending agency that let them down. If we are going to take the Gospel to each living person in every corner of the world, we must do better…much better!
The crisis that few are talking about is missionary attrition. A 2017 survey of 745 former missionaries cited a lack of missionary care as the number one cause of missionary attrition.


Gospel Furthering Fellowship is an Independent Baptist mission service ministry. We do not send missionaries or start churches. GFF serves churches that send missionaries to start churches. We come alongside churches and missionaries by using our experience and expertise to encourage and promote long-term missionary service among unreached people groups. Churches have a biblical mandate to intentionally, not accidentally, produce career missionaries. We are honored to serve them as they seek to do so.

We at home cannot possibly understand what a new missionary faces. He is concerned about the children’s welfare and education. Culture stress is often overwhelming. The pressure he feels from his supporters to produce results may derive from his own mind, but it is there, nonetheless. The missionary is tempted to take shortcuts and minister before learning the language. When language learning suffers, he eventually realizes his inability to effectively communicate. Why didn’t someone warn me that this language and the hearts of these people would be so hard? This dear man of God and his wife may question their spirituality. Surely, if we were right with God, we would love these people!
Missionaries may feel reluctant to share with anyone, including their pastor, what they are going through. After all, they told him and a bunch of others what they were going to do. They never entertained a thought of failure. The pastor needs to exercise his gift of discernment, read between the lines, investigate, and be sure that his missionary family is indeed doing well. Even if he does not suspect a problem, a personal visit might be a great encouragement to his missionary family.
It is the work of the church to get missionaries to the field. It is also the work of the church to keep them there. If they return early, it is the duty of the church to love and welcome them as the heroes they are. The church should attempt to restore and resend them. Compassionate care, not criticism, is needed.

Winter 2023-24

There were many notable events in 1973. The infamous Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade made legal the murder of sixty-six million babies over the next forty-nine years. The Watergate scandal was a top story for most of the year, and President Nixon assured us that he was not a crook. Vice president Spiro Agnew resigned over a tax evasion issue, and Gerald Ford was confirmed by the House of Representatives to replace him. The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. The American Baseball League adopted the designated hitter position, and Secretariat won the Triple Crown. After the loss of over 58,000 men and one woman, we pulled out of Vietnam and gave South Vietnam to the
communists. Also, that year Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia.

It was not announced on national news or even on local news, but in September of 1973 the Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI) began in a Sunday school classroom of Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Before that time, no Baptist school existed to train missionaries in linguistics, language and culture learning, and Bible translation principles. The vision for BBTI grew out of the frustration of a Baptist missionary trying to minister in Spanish to a group of Indian people whose understanding of Spanish was extremely limited. George Anderson thought maybe he had missed the class at his Bible college that dealt with language learning. He inquired and found that no such class was given at his college or at any Baptist school in America, Canada, or England. In light of Christ’s command to teach all nations, George thought this was very strange. He learned that there are still thousands of unwritten languages with not a word of the Bible and where language schools do not exist. George correctly reasoned that if these people were to ever hear the Gospel or read God’s Word, they needed missionaries with specialized training to reach them. There are two kinds of men: One says, “This is not right. Someone ought to do something about it.” And the other kind says, “This is not right. I am going to do something about it.” George learned that training in linguistic and cross-culture communication was available at the non-denominational organization New Tribes Mission. The New Tribes leaders graciously agreed to accept George and his wife Sharon and train them with the understanding that the Andersons would use it to begin a similar school for Baptist missionaries. George asked his supporting churches to be patient with them for two years while they acquired this valuable training.

BBTI began with the Andersons and three other families: the Duffees, the Huddlestons, and the Cobbs. Realizing that a Sunday School classroom is not an appropriate place to train missionaries, we began praying and searching for a larger rural property. We had no money, but with the help of Paul Henderson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bowie, Texas, we were given one hundred seventeen acres of land with three houses five miles from Bowie. The move was made on April 1, 1974, and by then a fifth family, the Christensens, had joined the group.

Missionaries need to learn building skills, and repairs to our old houses provided plenty of on-the-job experience. The many hard and unpleasant tasks such as digging a ditch were classified as GMT (Good Missionary Training), and we did them as to the Lord, knowing that we were building something that would last. Today there is housing for four staff families and a dozen other families or single students. A multipurpose building was constructed in 2004 and an addition to it is currently in progress.

Advancements have been made in the field of linguistic and cultural anthropology, and BBTI has tried to keep pace. The courses of Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Chronological Bible Teaching, Greek, and Jungle Camp have been added but much is still the same. Certainly, the goal of training missionaries has not changed. BBTI has had three directors: George Anderson, Charles Turner, and Rex Cobb.

The tuition-free specialized training is given in one nine-month school year.Enrollment has never been large; it has averaged thirteen students per class. Our best representatives have been our graduates and students that visit churches on deputation. We accept students from like-minded churches with their pastor’s approval. Since 2006, we have promoted the work of missions and our Advanced Missionary Training weekly on fifty-five radio stations and in this quarterly publication. Our graduates have worked in Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Bahamas, China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Nepal, Russia, Israel, Tajikistan, Korea, Japan, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Papua Indonesia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, India, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon, Malawi, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Hungry, Romania, Republic of Georgia, Armenia, Croatia, Greece, Greenland, and to the Chippewas Indians in the United States. Others are preparing to go to Iceland, Burkina Faso, and to some countries mentioned above. Graduates are using the skills they learned at BBTI in cross-cultural evangelism, Indigenous church planting, Bible translation, and literacy.

Thank God for half a century of blessings. We glance back, but we gaze forward. The task is still before us, even greater than it was fifty years ago because the population has doubled. By the grace of God and with the prayers and support of God’s people, we plan to continue to prepare missionaries for their challenging task of language learning, cultural adaptation, and communication of the Gospel. If we were on the right path a half century ago, and we believe we were, then we plan to stay on that same path. Technology is helpful in some ways, but it will never replace flesh and blood missionaries going where people have no knowledge of Christ and staying until there is a thriving church with a well-translated Bible and a desire to take the Gospel to the regions beyond them. That is the plan for the next fifty years or until Jesus returns!

Bible translation is an awesome task. Nevertheless, it can and must be done in the right way with the right method. Bible translators do not translate by inspiration. If they did, the task would be quite simple since there would be no need for checking or revising. The translator must struggle diligently to find the best possible way to say, in the target language , what God has said in the source language. He must pray for God’s help. It would be easy for us to decide translation is too much responsibility and risk. Are you not glad though, that when he gave us our first English Bible from the Greek received text, William Tyndale did not decide the risk and responsibility were too great? Speaking of risk; Tyndale was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church for his work!

The Bible does not easily fit into the target language. Though Greek did not perfectly fit into English, we can confidently say that we have God’s Word in our language. The goal of translation is to maintain the integrity of the original while making the target translation understandable and readable to the people. If the translation does not sound right, people may carry it to church, but they will probably not read it. We want the people to say, “This is our Bible” not, “This is the missionary’s Bible.”

Some passages are a challenge to put into the target language. However, after finding what does not work, you look for what does. Your native translators are your best asset because they know their language and culture. Perhaps a fellow team member may find or know the answer, or you may consult someone back home.
Challenges may arise if the grammar of the source language differs from the grammar of the target language. Many languages have two words for we. You must choose. One of the words includes the person being addressed; the other word does not. (This is third person plural inclusive and exclusive.) For example, the disciples woke Jesus in the storm and said, “… Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Does the word we include or exclude Jesus? Did they think they would perish but Jesus would survive? Or did they think Jesus would sink with them? Since neither English nor Greek have this grammatical feature, those texts cannot help you make a decision.

Another grammatical challenge is the pronoun their. When the four men let their paralyzed friend down through the roof, Jesus saw their faith. At least one Tibetan language has five words for their. One word is a general reference to six or more people, but the other words depend on whether there are two, three, four, or five people involved. So, did Jesus see the faith of four or five men?

Some languages, such as Melanesian Pidgin of Papua New Guinea, have only active, not passive voice. They cannot say, “John was hit by the ball” (passive), but rather “The ball hit John” (active). This language requires that passive voice phrases change to active voice. While we cannot change the grammar of the target language to match the grammar of the source text, our Bible translation must conform to the grammar requirements of the receptor language. This is not bad translation; it is reality.

Another language challenge is the use of verbs and verb phrases rather than abstract nouns such as faith, love, repentance, salvation, etc. In the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “… This day is salvation come to this house…” This little phrase is full of challenges. For example, the Coatlán Zapotec of Oaxaca, Mexico, does not have the word salvation. They have the verb save, but how does a house get saved? House is used to represent the family. This phrase also presents a collocational clash. (Languages differ in what words naturally fit together.) How does salvation come? Abstract nouns and figurative language are often challenging, but translation must be done. Team members can brainstorm, and someone may determine an acceptable way. You can also consider how other translators have rendered the verse. However, you must be careful. Not all translators have the same convictions or methods of translation that you have.
Translators also face challenges in languages and cultures that do not contain words or concepts such as circumcision, baptism, fasting, or housetops. If people live in houses with thatched roofs and bamboo walls, shouting from the housetop may be totally ridiculous. No one would stand on the roof. We cannot say to announce it over the loudspeaker because doing so is an anachronism, introducing something into the Bible that did not exist in Bible times. Some may suggest a cultural substitute like announcing it in the town square or in the men’s house. But that is not what Jesus said; He said house. A footnote might be used to explain the type of house with a flat roof found in Israel or a picture of such a house with a caption below it. What do we do with words like snow, camel, and lamb where these are not known? The solution might be to borrow or transliterate the word from the country’s trade language. If there is misunderstanding with these words, the checking process will reveal it, and we can look for a better way.

These are just a few of many challenges that make translation interesting. While we must maintain a healthy fear of the awesome responsibility of translating, we must not let fear stop us from getting involved. We must not say, “Let the experts do it.” Look at the junk “Bibles” the “experts” have given us in English! Bible translation requires serious-minded, hard-working, Bible-believing, careful, diligent, godly men and women who will accept the challenge. Translation is not for everyone. However, we need many hundreds more missionaries who love God, love the lost, and love the Bible to complete the task!

With eight billion souls in our world, and three hundred eight-five thousand being born every day, the words of Jesus still ring true, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.” We need thousands of new missionaries; and we need the present ones to stay the course! No one announces their intention to go to the mission field without a desire for a long, fruitful ministry. Yet, it seems that missionaries who spend decades on the field have become less common. Why? Recently, a missions-minded pastor asked me to share my thoughts on selecting missionaries to support who will stay the course. This article, which I pray will be a help to both missionaries and pastors, is the result.

While we encourage all to consider missionary service, presenting yourself to the churches as a missionary is like matrimony—it should not be entered into lightly. Some missionaries have asked churches to invest in them only to fail to reach the field or to depart prematurely. William D. Taylor with the World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission claims that 71% of early missionary departures are preventable. God’s people want to invest in new missionaries, but they deserve some measure of assurance that the missionary will stay the course and do what he promises.

Missionaries are expensive but well worth the cost if they accomplish their goals. We understand that sometimes it becomes impossible for a missionary to reach the field or remain there. He may face political unrest or visa problems. But if this happens, it may be God’s direction to a different field, not His leadership back home. Sickness is a common reason for leaving the field. Missionary friend, if this happened—we should say when this happens—consider getting medical help there or in a neighboring country. If you must return stateside for treatment, determine to return to your field as soon as possible. Give up your support and stay home only as a last resort.

Sometimes missionaries leave their field due to unresolved conflicts with other missionaries or nationals. If these painful incidents occur, seek counsel from your pastor and others. Separate yourself from that location, if necessary, but not from your mission field. (See Acts 15:36-41.) God put you there; don’t let a man send you home!

Failure to learn the language well and become comfortable in the culture is often an underlying factor in early departures. Inability to communicate is very frustrating. Determine to spend at least your first two years in nothing but language and culture learning. Our pre-field linguistic training will help you learn quickly and accurately and help you to recognize and deal with the language and culture shock you will inevitably face. Your ability to adapt is vital to success in communication. It is difficult to remain in an uncomfortable place when you struggle to communicate.

If you are a supporting pastor, we suggest you not simply rely on a questionnaire or brief phone conversation before adding a missionary for monthly support. A personal call to the missionary’s sending pastor might reveal some valuable information. Does the pastor have any reservations about sending him? Is the sending church completely behind him, and how much money are they investing in him? Is the pastor willing to visit his missionary couple on the field to ensure that they are adapting well and learning the language?

Next, ask questions about the missionaries’ family life and active ministry. Are they humble, hospitable, and ministry-minded? Have they served faithfully in the church? Have they taught Sunday School or Junior Church, cleaned toilets, worked in the bus ministry, the jail, or in the nursing home? How well does the pastor really know the man, his wife, and his children? Does he only see them on Sundays and Wednesdays? What is the home really like? Is the couple training their children? Is the wife completely dedicated to a life on the foreign field? Are they willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the ministry?

Discover the character of the missionary. Is the pastor quite sure his missionary is not viewing pornography? Is he (or his wife) addicted to his cell phone or social media? Can he stick with a task? Can he put down his electronic toys and get his hands dirty? Is he an extra-mile Christian or does he do only what is expected? How does the missionary react to adversity? Can he respond Biblically to interpersonal conflicts? Is he faithful and consistent in giving of his finances? Language learning and missionary work require that he endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Finally, discover all you can about the missionaries’ preparation. Do they know their Bible? Have they been to Bible college, or do they have a good explanation why it was not necessary? Do they plan to get specialized linguistic and cross-cultural training before going to the field? Do not accept the response, “We don’t have time.” They take time for financial preparation. Nine months of Advanced Missionary Training will prepare them to communicate clearly in a new language. Have they researched their country and know its history, heroes, culture, and government? What have they learned about the Bible they will be using? Do they care about its accuracy and purity? Do they know or care about the status of people groups in the country? Are they reached, unreached, or Bibleless? Is the missionary willing to find answers to these questions?

Before taking a missionary on, it is wise to have a face-to-face meeting. If you have concerns related to any of the topics above, share them. Be kind and gentle and do not expect perfection. Remember that God holds us all to the same standard. Give the missionary godly suggestions in the areas where he may be lacking and schedule a future interview; give him six or eight months to implement your suggestions. Be willing to qualify and slow to disqualify this precious missionary family! Above all, pray for discernment. God knows who will stay the course!

Winter 2022-23

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Seventy-five percent of our military age men are unfit for service. Some military branches are lowering standards and increasing financial incentives to recruit personnel. Sadly, recruitment for overseas missionary service is very low as well. The apostle Paul declares that salvation is available to everyone everywhere. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Then he launches into a series of rhetorical questions intended to motivate us to deliver the good news to the world. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” They cannot. “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” They cannot. “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” They cannot. “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” Send preachers! God must send them, of course, but the church must recruit and prepare them for Him to send. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38). Prayer is not a suggestion but a command. However, we seldom hear a public prayer for more laborers. We have not because we ask not! But why do we ask not? We ask for what we want. Apparently, we really do not want missionaries; or, we want them to come from other churches, not ours. The Antiochian church was a missionary recruitment center. The believers prayed for missionaries and produced them. According to Acts 13:14, God sent them; “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed….” As co-laborers with God, we are failing to produce laborers for Him to send.

A few missionaries are coming from a few churches. Why so few? Why not ours? Childbearing is normally not a problem for a young couple, but when it is, they may seek medical help. We must admit our missionary infertility and consult the Great Physician.

Failure to produce foreign missionaries is so widespread that it seems almost normal.We would all agree that missionaries should come from our churches—where else would they come from? Yet most churches do not produce missionaries. This missionary barrenness may be common, but we must not accept it as normal.The purpose of the church is missions, and missions cannot be accomplished without missionaries. So, our missionary scarcity is a grave problem that must be addressed. A first step toward fixing the problem is to increase missionary emphasis in our church services. Look at the amount of time given to missions in the church services. What does it say about our missionary priority? We wonder why God is not calling enough missionaries to reach every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. Missionaries do not magically appear! They are developed in the home and the church where there is a strong missionary emphasis.

While we thank God for what churches do for missions, we must do more. There are many ways local churches can be actively involved in missions. We could give missions more priority by reading prayer letters from the pulpit and praying for the requests. A church could purchase good missionary books and strongly suggest that people read them. Someone could read short, interesting portions from these books to whet the congregation’s appetite. Occasionally, we could show missionary videos or short presentations downloaded from the missionaries’ websites. Someone could research and give a brief report on the spiritual condition of a certain country. Before the service, why not project pictures of missionaries that you support? Get to know them. Hosting missionaries is expensive; they need meals, money, and often a motel. But they help keep our minds on missions. They convey a burden for their field and make a plea for help. A church could also display the current faith promise goal and giving along with a list of missionaries that could be supported if the mission giving increased. Missions must be emphasized all year long, not just during the annual missions conference. Sing missionary songs occasionally; preach missionary sermons. If reaching the world is your church’s priority, keep missions before the congregation. If it is not, repent! Encourage communication with missionary wives and children. Use different creative ideas to promote missions in the church services. Do not just say world evangelism is important; show that it is! Let us prepare our young people for missionary service and let them go! For too long we have cautioned them to stay unless they are absolutely sure that God wants them to go. It is time to challenge them to go unless they are absolutely sure God wants them to stay!

Pastors must call people to the altar of total surrender (Romans 12:1-2.) We preach, “Give God your heart.” But God says, “Give me your body.” He demands that the body be holy, and not conformed to the world. Look at the worldliness of our people. They often wear the immodest clothes of the world. They deface and stain their bodies like the heathen. Worldly music and sinful images enter their eyes and ears, and worldly speech comes out of their mouths. Most Christians probably do not even try to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” They are neither transformed, nor renewed, and are anything but missionary material. Perhaps one young person out of one hundred has an inclination toward fulltime missions. One percent is pathetic! We need a radical change in thinking about missions! Let the world provide its cab drivers, plumbers, lawyers, and programmers. Let the church produce missionaries!

Change is needed because what we are doing is not working. There remain thousands of unreached people groups and Bibleless languages. At the rate we are producing missionaries, billions will never hear the Gospel. When we compare what we are doing with what we are not doing, we must conclude that something is terribly wrong. God, give us a revival in missions. Make our churches recruitment stations that produce laborers for You to send!

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Billions of people in the world are bilingual and even multilingual. It is not unusual for people in India or Africa to speak four or five languages. Why should it be so difficult for missionaries to learn a new language or two? Perhaps we are going at language learning in the wrong way. The normal procedure for our missionaries is Bible college, deputation, and then a language school on their chosen field. There is a vitally important step that is usually overlooked: pre-field linguistic training such as has been available for Baptist missionaries at BBTI for nearly fifty years. Some have greatly benefited from it, however, the vast majority have either not known of its existence or chosen not to take advantage of it.

The language school method of language learning presupposes that a school is available for the language the missionary needs to learn. Language schools teach trade languages such as French, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. There are 7,151 languages in the world, and it would be safe to say that 6,000 or more of them have no language schools. Yet there are billions of lost souls that speak these languages: souls for whom Jesus died, souls that He desires to save, and souls that deserve to hear the message in their heart languages. Some of these languages have only a few hundred speakers while others have several million. With few exceptions, our Independent Baptist missionaries are not attempting to reach people whose languages have no schools because of the seemingly impossible language barrier. Many of these languages are still unwritten which of course means they have no portion of God’s Word. An estimated eighty-five percent of our missionaries go to only fifteen countries and then only to the major trade languages. Most of these countries have several other language groups. For instance, in the African country of Côte d’Ivoire, there are 77 languages besides the official French. Would you not agree that all people deserve to hear the Gospel in the language they understand best, just as we did?

A language school where one is available is a good idea but not when the missionary first arrives on the field. We suggest that he begins vigorously learning the language from the people and progress to a point of fluency in a more natural way. Schools are not the natural way to learn languages. We did not learn our first language in one! The method of language learning that we suggest may sound radical to Americans, but it works, and it is usually better and faster. This plan will require extreme dedication and diligence on the part of the missionary. If he is too undisciplined or unwilling to take on this responsibility and become a learner, leaving behind the mentality of a student, then he should simply go the language school route and live with its results and limitations.

We are not suggesting that the missionary simply go out with the people and “pick up the language” the best he can. No, we are suggesting a plan that involves a tried and proven method. The missionary can go to the field with this method and begin using it upon arrival. But he must learn the method here first. Before you ask, the answer is no; he cannot learn it on the internet. And it will take time. (Missionaries spend the necessary time to prepare theologically in Bible college and financially on deputation. Why should they not spend the necessary time to prepare linguistically?)

This natural language learning method is part of the overall nine-month Advanced Missionary Training (AMT) program of BBTI which provides many language and culture learning tools that are not available in Bible colleges. The first skill we teach is phonetics. I have said it a thousand times; one more time will not hurt: No missionary should attempt to learn a new language without first studying phonetics! (At BBTI both husband and wife take the same classes.) Students spend at least one hundred fifty literal classroom hours learning to recognize and reproduce any sound they may encounter (there are about eight hundred of them). Because he learns to produce the new sounds exactly as the native speaker, he can speak a new language with little or no foreign accent. An accent does not disappear with time; from the beginning, he must keep from superimposing his English habits on the new language by forming new habits that will last for life.

The missionary student uses his newly acquired phonetic skill for a following course, Situational Language Learning. This includes using a language helper (I did not say a language teacher) who speaks a foreign language well. (In recent years, we have used Sina-Sina from Papua New Guinea, Japanese, Korean, Khmer from Cambodia, and Spanish.) The student learns how to elicit the language from the helper in a step-by-step process, beginning with simple object-like words and slowly increasing the length of the utterances. In a short time, he is fluent in all the sounds of that language. In a few weeks, he, along with a partner, will progress to eliciting and learning dialogues natural to the native culture such as buying food in the market. If his target language has no language school, he can continue using this method for as long as needed. If a language school is available, he can enter it after a few months and advance rapidly in grammar and more vocabulary. He begins at the top of the class because he is not struggling with pronunciation. He will sound like a native. Speaking and acting like a native should make him much less of an outsider. He will be comfortable with the people and hopefully they will be more willing to listen to his message. They may even tell him, “You eat our food, you spend time with us, you talk like us. Hey, you are one of us!”

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The ground is level at the foot of the cross, meaning that all are welcomed and received equally when they come to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus made a full and final atonement for the sins of Adam and all his descendants. Not only does God desire that all would arrive at the cross (1 Timothy 2:4), He commands it (Acts 17:30). The ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross, but the road leading there is not. For some there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way.

To the place I heard the Gospel for the first time, I drove one mile on a paved road. I passed no checkpoints, and no armed guards asked where I was going. I walked into the building in broad daylight. It was not an underground church service. I feared no retaliation from a religious system. No family member opposed my going or persecuted me afterward. I heard the message in my language without it going through an interpreter. If I did not know better, I might think God loves me more than most people in the world. For me, the road to the cross was smooth and easy. I wish it were for everyone.

Most in the world know nothing about the cross or that there is even a road to it. No one gets to the cross without the message of the Gospel, and it simply has not been declared where they live. Contrary to God’s will, these poor souls live and die without the Gospel.

Another huge obstacle is social control, commonly called peer pressure. A society keeps its people in line with the threat of punishments. Punishment might be mild like gossip or ostracism or as serious as death. We have heard of a father killing his child that converted to Christianity. It is much easier to get to the cross from North Carolina than from North Korea! The fear of exile from a family or group is terrifying. A Muslim in Indonesia told a BBTI graduate, “I am an Indonesian, a Sunda Muslim. If I trust Christ, I am no longer a Sunda. If I am not a Sunda, I am nothing. I have no home, no family, no house, no relationship. I know I am a sinner, and I do not want to be punished for my sins. I know Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, but I would rather risk suffering eternally in the lake of fire than to lose my social identity in this life.” (Missionaries in these difficult places are not going to see quick results; we need to be patient with them.)

To illustrate this difficult struggle against social control, consider the following from BBTI graduate Emanuel, who along with his wife, Courtney, works with Afghan refugees in Greece:

“Iman is not like the normal Hazara Afghans that are the majority here. In fact, there is a lot of fighting between Iman’s Panjshir group and them. Iman says they all convert easily because they don’t take their religion seriously. They will change again later from Jesus to something else when the situation affords. Iman on the other hand owns his faith. He has a very strong national pride that relates to his religion…But then here comes the dichotomy. For all this die-hard insistence, in the same conversation he will confess that he is tired of religion and wishes there were a way to connect with God directly without going through books, prophets, and go-betweens.

Over the weeks, we have had many conversations about the identity of Jesus. We showed him many scriptures, each of them shedding more light, but still, he would insist that he cannot accept that Jesus is God. We learned not to press the point. Instead, we befriended him, along with many others. We built trust, and he started coming and reading the Bible. When his younger brother was missing for days, we prayed with him. We let him talk about his life, his brothers who are fighting the Taliban, his mother whom he loves more than any other person, the three cows they have, the customs and values they live by, the climate of his mountain home, why he left it, the challenges along the way, and how he misses his family. For every hour we have spent teaching, we have spent as much listening. Slowly he was drawn in.

Now, he enjoys the Bible more and interacts with it better than most Christians I know. I can give him a passage, and he will read it and then preach it to me. He would make a great preacher. He loves Jesus… Still, he could not accept Christ’s identity. Until recently that is.
The other day we had a God-ordained hour with him, showing repeatedly that Jesus was in fact worshipped by men and angels, that he not only permitted it, but God commanded it, and that one day every tongue, including Iman’s, will confess that Jesus is Lord. At the end, he confessed that he believes it is true, but he has a family, which I suspicioned, for all his claims of independence, was the real reason he could not accept Jesus as the Son of God. If Jesus is right, his family, his nation, his heritage, has been mistaken for hundreds of years. That is an incredibly hard pill to swallow for one who is not bitter and hurt by his native culture, but proud of it…For such a person to become a follower of Jesus, what must he lose? Father, mother, brother, and sister, yes, Islam. He must find a new reference point, with new values, new beliefs, a new community, a new Lord and Master, a new Book, a new road, a new everything. Nothing old can stay the same. All that is dear to him must be eclipsed by One who beckons to him with nail scars in his hands and feet.”

It was easy for me to accept Jesus. I did not lose my family, my job, or my country. Not so for many. What will it take to get people like the Sunda Muslim or Iman down the road to the cross? Someone must obtain specialized training for the task. He must give up all he knows and loves and go to where they live, he must patiently learn new tongues and cultures, and he must not look for shortcuts or quick results. He must be willing to walk a difficult, dangerous road with the seeking sinner until they reach the level ground at the foot of the cross.

Spring 2022

Understanding of a people’s culture is vital. If the missionary does not know the culture, he is likely to deliver a confused message. The following article by a BBTI graduate, whose identity we must conceal, demonstrates this fact. Understanding of a people’s culture is vital. If the missionary does not know the culture, he is likely to deliver a confused message.

In the process of language learning, we have heard several folktales and children’s stories and have learned much about the people’s cultural mindset and worldview. We have seen at least three common themes.

Firstly, people are collectivists, NOT individualists. In America, we have been rooted in humanism to the point that “I define me.” In other words, I get to decide what I think is right and wrong. In general, westerners want to stand out of the crowd, be their own person, and have their own opinions. It does not work that way here. A person’s goal in a collectivist society is to progress the community; all are equal, and everyone is happy. Nobody has more than anyone else, we are all one big family, and what is mine is yours. This could explain why communism, to a certain point, makes sense here culturally. It is when the people discover that the dictators are above everyone else, have more, and are bossing people around that things begin to change. Which brings us to the next point…

Authority (without reason) is almost always resisted and rebelled against. If others (the pu-nyai) are over you, they are expected to show respect and understanding to you and everyone else (the pu-noi) under them. This means that if you give a rule, you should also explain why that rule is being enforced. Giving a reason shows you care about others and are helping to further everyone so that all live in unity. Otherwise, you are just a jerk full of pride scolding the underlings.

Last of all, deception is considered heroic. A typical hero in a folktale is an underling (pu-noi) who deceives the dictator/jerk (pu-nyai) in order to shame him, make him “lose face” in the community, and bring down his pride. We have seen this pattern over and over in these stories. A clever trick played on someone, usually in a humorous way, shows not only how the trickster does not like the jerk, but that he thinks the jerk is something he should not be. It is a way to “get the upper hand” so to speak. Here is an example of a story involving these things:

“Please don’t put me in the bucket!” called a soft voice.
“Oi! The fish can talk!” the lady said with a startle.
“Please don’t put me in the bucket!” the little fish begged again.
“But if I don’t catch you, I will not have anything to eat!”
the lady replied.
“But I am so young and very small,” implored the fish. “You will not have enough to eat. Why don’t you put me back in the water and wait until I am fully grown? Then you can catch me again, and you will have more to eat for that meal.”
After some thought, the lady conceded. She gently placed the little fish back into the river.
The little fish, happy to be free again, swam and splashed as far away from the net as he could, determined to
never return to that spot in the river.

Here we observe the pu-nyai, the lady who will catch and eat the fish (which only benefits her and leaves no mercy for the fish). The pu-noi, the little fish, resists and outsmarts her, even lying to her that he will be there again for her to catch once he is grown up. His trickery saves the day, he swims free (a small victory for all fish everywhere), and the woman is assumed to go hungry that day.

How does this affect the missionary? Take, for instance, the story of Adam and Eve. At first, if you hear the story through our people’s ears, God could
be considered a bad pu-nyai, giving rules without reason; the hero of the story would be the serpent, Satan. In deceiving Eve (by mixing truth with lies), he really deceived God and foiled His plans. And now all the earth and humankind are as corrupt (thus on the same level) as Satan. Imagine trying to convey the Gospel when Satan is seen as the hero!

However, if we show that God is a good pu-nyai, giving reasons for his rules (“In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”), thus trying to look out for and protect the pu-noi under Him, we see that deceiving Him is the worst blasphemy ever! Now, the deceiver is harming the one that protects the community, making himself the pu-nyai who is getting something only for himself and hurting everyone else. It shifts the situation entirely.

Now consider Christ Jesus. He was and is THE Pu-Nyai: Creator God, holy, sovereign, all-powerful, eternal, worthy of all praise. He stooped down and became a humble Pu-Noi. He had no more than anyone else around Him; He roamed homeless, often only finding solace on the Mount of Olives. He helped make the lives and souls better for those around Him. He had compassion on His fellow men. He did not come as Pu-Nyai, even though He is worthy to make the rules. He came as one of us, so He could be accepted by us.

As missionaries, we MUST be learners before we can be teachers, or we will find ourselves having to correct grave errors in our teaching. We cannot just spread the Gospel without giving due attention to culture. The way we pre- sent things may or may not make sense to the hearers. We must be pu-noi, just humans among fellow humans, serving our Heavenly Father, the Pu-Nyai of pu-nyai, the holiest and worthiest of all.

This title comes from an article by Paul Fleming. It makes us laugh but should make us cry. In practice, a lot of men are saying, “Send my sister.” Fleming goes on to write:

We men! We are the stronger sex; it has always been so! We send our gifts to mission fields, to which the women go. While up the steepest jungle paths, a woman bravely treads, We men, who are the stronger sex, do pray beside our beds. When women leave to go abroad, the heathen souls to reach, We men, who are the stronger sex, do stay at home to preach. While women, in some far-off shack, do brave the flies and heat, We men, who are the stronger sex, in cool and comfort eat. Fatigued and weary, needing rest, the women battle on. We men, who are the stronger sex, do write to cheer them on! O valiant men! Come let us sleep and rest our weary heads. We shall not be the stronger sex if we neglect our beds!

We do not deny the important role that women play in God’s work. Women from Galilee followed and ministered to Jesus and his disciples. Paul named several faithful women who served in the early churches. Over the centuries, thousands of women, both single and married, have left their homes to work in heathen lands. Some, no doubt, preached a little more than we think they should have, but probably because no man was there to proclaim the Gospel. Whether on the foreign field or at home in our churches, women are often the spiritual leaders because men have abdicated the position. Many times, women have a heart for God and a compassion for others that is lacking in men. This naturally attracts them to the mission field.

Women oftentimes have a desire to serve the Lord full-time just like men. At home, their full-time opportunities may be limited to church secretary or Christian school teacher, but on the foreign field, they can serve as missionaries. Missionary women understand what they should and should not do. They should work under the leadership of a male missionary or national pastor. They should teach ladies and children but not men. They may teach men to read and write or to speak English but may not teach Bible doctrine. They should not attempt to work in dangerous places where they risk being violated. Of course, single men have limitations on the foreign field as well. A well-prepared Aquila and Priscilla team is perfect.

Over the last twenty-one years at BBTI, the single female students have outnumbered the single male students by two to one. Some single graduates get involved in short-term missionary work, but as a rule, if they remain unmarried, they will not be career missionaries, especially the single men. Unmarried ladies are much more likely to go to the field as full-time missionaries than single men.

The great need is for men, single or married, who will go to the foreign field and stay. Thank God for the ladies who have this desire, but where are the men? Why are they avoiding missionary service? Could it be that they are not being confronted and challenged? Spurgeon said, “Not all men should be missionaries, but all men should struggle with it.” Pastor, make the men struggle with it. When they say, “I’m not called,” pressure them to tell you how they came to that conclusion. How much did they pray about it and study God’s Word on the subject? How did God reveal to them that they are called to stay? Do not let them off the hook so easily. Most of our churches are not producing missionaries; we should find out why! We support missionaries, but are we producing them?

Military experts tell us that seventy-five percent of our military age men are unfit for service: 25% lack a high school education, 30% are too ignorant to pass the entrance exam, 10% are disqualified due to criminal convictions, 27% are obese, and 32% of the age group have other disqualifying health problems. And since we have an all-volunteer military, a man can simply not volunteer. The same is true in God’s army. God may impress a man that he should go to the mission field, but that man has a will and can refuse; men do it all the time!
Disqualifying factors for missionaries are different, but they are numerous: LifeWay Research reports that 66% of young people drop out of church after high school. Others are addicted to pornography, video games, social media, texting, pleasure, money, and tattoo ink. Most want to simply be comfortable and live the good life. For those who are even somewhat interested in missions, there are many pitfalls and detours that lead anywhere but to the mission field. We as a church must protect potential missionaries from the wiles of Satan. We must nurture and encourage them by keeping the mission challenge before them.

Nothing short of real revival is going to produce male missionaries. We must fall in love with our Lord Jesus Christ and get interested in what is on his heart. He said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). He said to preach the Gospel to every creature; yet billions have never heard a clear Gospel message. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). His commandment to go and teach all nations is ignored; there are still thousands of unreached nations (people groups). He said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). We are unfriendly toward Jesus because we are not evangelizing the world as He commanded.

Yes, we need a real revival, one that would result in men saying, “Here am I, send me” instead of saying, “Here’s my sister, Lord, send her.”

When a man decides to go to the mission field, his wife may have little to say about it. But for sure, his children have no voice or vote—they go. It is not a problem for young children; they simply go where mama and daddy go. Children seven or nine years old may be concerned that they cannot take all their toys, but it is probably not a disturbing event. However, for preteens or teens it is an altogether different story. They are facing a big struggle. Being teenagers is hard enough in a place where they know the language and culture perfectly. In a strange new place where they cannot speak the language and have no idea how to act, it can be traumatic and terrifying.

A family on deputation going to South America was in a distant state when their teenage son disappeared one evening. They did not know if he was kidnapped or if he ran away. The latter was the case. He decided he was not going to the mission field. The family did go to the field but stayed only a year or less. A family that graduated from BBTI many years ago planned to go to a first world European country. One of the sons told his parents that he would kill himself if they took him out of the country; they, of couirse, stayed home.

Consider these portions from a journal entry of an extraordinary fourteen-year-old girl facing a new life in a third world country on the other side of the world.

“Dad signed the last paper, and the farm is now in the hands of someone else. It will never more be my refuge, my shelter, my home. Home as I have known it will never be the same. Tears begin to stream down my face as I relive the many happy years I spent on the farm. Faces, places, and happenings start to flash through my mind. I remember spending wintry evenings with a fire crackling merrily in the wood stove and a kerosene lantern shining softly above me [their house had no electricity or running water], snuggled in the lap of an older sibling, listening to Dad or Mom read a book about the Anabaptists or about a missionary. I remember the happy hours gathered around the kitchen table playing games and just enjoying each other. I remember… I remember… I remember… I remember the many special memories that my family made on the farm. Fun, scary, hilarious, and sad memories race through my mind. I see the farm from stem to stern. I see where I spent fourteen years of my life. I begin to wonder, was it worth giving them up? I see my dog that I gave up, my special treasures, my life. Was it worth giving up? Was it worth leaving behind friends, family, and the only home I have ever known? Was it worth leaving it all to go to a place I have never seen, to a people I have never met, to a language I have never heard, and to a culture I have never understood? Was it worth leaving close friends to become the stranger and the newcomer? It will be worth it all. These temporal things such as our farm, will someday be gone, but the eternal things that we have done for Christ will last forever. Pictures of natives in [we dare not name the country] begin to play on the screen of my mind. I envision the souls that will get saved, the Bible that will get translated, and the glory that God will get. Now it doesn’t seem so hard to give up everything. In my mind I begin to replace the hardships and sacrifices with eternal rewards in Heaven. So, to me, it is worth giving up my friends, my treasures, and all this world can offer to fulfill the Great Commission and help reconcile the world to God. As I dry my tears and close my journal, I ask myself this question: Was it really worth it to give up the farm? My answer is yes!”

Does this mean that a family with teenage children should opt out of foreign field service? Absolutely not. But there are things that would help prepare young people for the field. First, parents should raise children to love and serve God as the above quoted girl was. Then, the churches, especially the sending church, should recognize the teens as missionaries in their own right. Churches should encourage and reward them in every way possible. Missionary dads usually get the recognition and love offerings. Give some accolades and gifts to the missionary mom, children, and teens. Generously finance survey trips to the field so that older children can accompany their parents. This is a good way to help relieve teens’ fear of the unknown, and they will probably learn that the place is not all that bad. God may even give them a great love for the people and a desire to return.

Consider also that teens would benefit greatly from pre-field preparation in linguistics and in language and culture learning. It is a big mistake for any missionary to go without adequate preparation, and teens will encounter the same difficulties in language and culture adjustment as their parents. Over the years, several teens have taken some or all of the Advanced Missionary Training courses at BBTI along with their parents. (Their homeschooling may have been somewhat curtailed or even postponed. In other cases, however, the teens took BBTI classes in the morning and worked to complete their high school course in the afternoon.) Young people that do this go to the field with confidence and skills that help them learn and adapt more quickly. They look at the new culture and language as a challenge, a very achievable goal, instead of a dreaded ordeal. One ten-year-old boy took the phonetics course with his parents. Once on the field, he quickly learned a difficult tonal language that he is comfortable speaking twenty years later.

The worldwide adolescent population is over forty percent. In some countries it is much higher. Young missionaries have more potential to reach those young people than their parents. If young people arrive on the field with a positive attitude and learn the language, they can be a great asset to the Lord. Their few years on the field can be a happy and fruitful time, and they may even return as adults to continue their missionary work.

“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59-60).

No one who teaches this passage believes that this man’s father was at the morgue or even on hospice. The father was probably old and would perhaps die within a few years. If the young man left home, he would lose his inheritance. He did not refuse to follow Jesus; he just said it would have to be later. He said, “Let me do what I want to do first, what I think is best for me.” Jesus was concerned about the multitudes scattered as lost sheep without the knowledge of the kingdom of God, and He wanted the young man to help reach them. But, it did not fit the young man’s plans and aspirations.

The young man’s response to Christ’s command is the typical one of most Christian young people today. They say that preaching the kingdom of God is a good thing—for someone else to do. Following Jesus would be fine—as long as He is going where they plan to go and will not interfere with what they plan to do. Many are saying, “Lord, I will follow you later, after I have lived out my dream. I have a certain career in mind, and it is not being a missionary.” That career then occupies the best years of their lives. And they become too old to go to the difficult places where those outside the kingdom live.

The young man thought his idea was better than that of Jesus. His financial advisor certainly thought it was a better and more profitable plan. None of his friends were following Jesus to the mission field; they were choosing their own careers. And of course, his mama and daddy certainly thought he should stay home because they looked forward to spending their last days playing with the grandchildren.

The lost sheep, ignorant of the kingdom of God, were the last thing on this young man’s mind. He did not know them. He felt no obligation to sacrifice his plans for them. Nobody he knew seemed to be concerned about them, so why should he be concerned? What right did Jesus have to tell him what to do with his life anyway?

Why do we think it is okay for a Christian young person to choose what he is going to do for the rest of his life? Why do we applaud him for planning and preparing for an honorable profession of his choosing? Have you ever heard a preacher denounce this as the sin of rebellion? If a Christian is not submissive and honestly seeking God’s will, what else is it but rebellion? Someone is going to say, “Maybe it is not God’s will for all the young people to go to the mission field.” That is true, but do you think for a moment that all these saved young people are honestly seeking God’s will? Are they presenting themselves as living sacrifices and making themselves available for missionary service? Are they letting God make the decision about their future? You and I both know that most of them are not.

A middle-aged man, whom we will call Frank, grew up on the mission field. He is bilingual and capable of preaching the Gospel in his second language in countries in Africa as well as in North, Central, and South America. He could also go somewhere else and learn a third language. He lives right, works hard, supports his family, pays his tithe, and teaches in his church. But several years ago, instead of going to preach the kingdom of God in the regions beyond, he chose to “bury the dead.” Frank began an excavating business and has spent his life doing what the spiritually dead could have done. If he can choose to operate a backhoe, why can he not choose to go to the mission field?

Someone needs to dig graves; dead bodies must be buried. But does the backhoe need to be operated by a Christian? What would make a saved person a better grave digger than an unsaved one? The lost man cannot go to the mission field to rescue the scattered, lost sheep, but the Christian can. Someone needs to sell life insurance, repair vehicles, build houses, unstop drains, milk cows, put out fires, and arrest bad guys. But, these jobs could be done by spiritually dead people.

So, what is the big deal if a young man decides what he will do with his life? The big deal is the big lake of fire where all those lost, scattered sheep will spend eternity separated from God. God wants them to live forever in His kingdom! While self-willed, rebellious, selfish, churchgoing, young people spend their lives doing what lost people could do, billions of lost souls wait for the Good News of the kingdom of God. In many places, the message that will most likely never arrive. If it were you bowing to an idol in Cambodia, or praying five times a day toward Mecca, or kneeling before a saint made of plaster with your hope in the pope, you might realize it is a big deal. If you were standing at the great white throne judgment without Christ, without hope, and about to hear the words of Jesus “depart from me” you would wish that someone would have gotten off his backhoe or laid down his shovel and brought you the Gospel.

Oh, dear Lord of harvest, help our people, especially the young ones, to stop making their own choices and let You choose. Help them to listen to the plea for help that is coming from distant places instead of the advice of the guidance counselor telling them about all the opportunities for lucrative careers that are theirs for the choosing. Help them to hear Your words, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”