The story is told of the farmer who didn’t plant corn for fear of blight, he didn’t plant beans for fear of drought, and he failed to plant wheat for fear that a fire might burn his crop just before harvest. He told a friend, “No, this year I’m playing it safe!” A BBTI graduate in the world’s most populous country just wrote, “Pray for more laborers; we sure do need them.” Missionaries never say, “Don’t send any more missionaries; we have more than we need.” And the heathen, in their own way, are pleading, “Come over and help us!” Meanwhile, many, realizing the seriousness of missionary service, are playing it safe and staying home.
Millions, yea billions, if we could only hear them, are crying out, “Stop playing it safe and come over and help us!” The heathen seek happiness in intoxicating substances, illicit sex, material possessions, education, sports, and vain religion. They are left empty and disappointed. But we know the One who gives abundant life and eternal satisfaction! They live in bondage to evil spirits, always trying to manipulate or appease them to receive their blessings and avoid their curses. But we know the Spirit who can make them free. They bow to idols that have hands that cannot help, ears that cannot hear, and eyes that cannot see. But we know the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent Creator whose ear is always attentive to our prayers. In vain the heathen look for help from shamans and priests who offer them forgiveness of sins if they will do enough good works, say enough prayers, do enough penances, and of course, give enough money. But we have God’s promise of free forgiveness without any of the above dead works. If they knew we have what they need, they would beg, “Stop playing it safe and come over and help us!”
Why are there thousands of cities and villages with no gospel-preaching church? Why do thousands of languages still have no Scriptures? And why are literally thousands dying every day having never heard the name of Jesus Christ, let alone a clear message of salvation? It is not for lack of a command to tell them. Jesus made it perfectly clear that He expects us, His church, to give the Good News to every soul on Earth. They will not all accept it, but they all have the God-given right to hear it. God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; He wants none to perish. The God of truth wants no one to live and die ignorant of the Gospel. Jesus who tasted death for all men wants all men to know it! Are we being too careful, playing it too safe, about who goes to tell them?
Ask one hundred young Christian men why they are planning to stay here and not planning to go to the mission field? Almost all of them will say that God has not called them to be a missionary. And so, we usually drop the subject and don’t challenge them further. But if we dare ask them how they know God has not called them, they can only say that they just don’t feel called. (So then, the eternal fate of the heathen depends on how we feel?) Ask them what this call would feel like, and they probably cannot tell you that either. Ask them for two New Testament verses that show them if they are called or not, and my bet is they will not find even one. Ask them if they have ever surrendered their lives to serve God on the mission field. Ask them if they have volunteered and asked God to let them go tell the heathen about Christ. The prevailing thought is that God will give an overwhelming emotional experience, a special supernatural revelation, to those He wants to serve on the mission field; otherwise, they should stay home. Unfortunately, this play-it-safe mentality often takes precedence over God’s command to go. And aren’t we inadvertently blaming God for not calling enough laborers to reach our world?
Some say that God hasn’t called them as a pretext; they wouldn’t go if He did. Others, however, have heard misleading rhetoric that has convinced them to play it safe and stay home: “Don’t go unless you are one hundred percent sure that God is calling.” (But they are given no scriptural instruction on how to be sure.) “Don’t confuse a burden with a call.” (No scriptural explanation is given to explain the difference, and the heathen won’t care if the message comes from someone who is called or burdened.) “If you can do anything else, God hasn’t called you.” (And our young people can find a hundred things they’d rather do than preach to the heathen.) “Wait until God calls you.” (While we wait in comfort, the heathen wait in despair!) “We have too many mama-called daddy-sent people.” (Oh no, I wouldn’t want to be accused of that! Better stay home and play it safe.)
My friend, withholding the Gospel from the lost is a much bigger sin than going to the mission field without a special call! We hear over and over about the call to go. When is the last time you heard preached the command to go? The call is subjective and ambiguous; the command is absolutely clear. I tell young men this: “In light of Christ’s command, you better go or have a good reason to stay!”
How many potential missionaries have stayed home because they have always heard and believed these warnings to play it safe concerning the mission field? Wouldn’t it be much better to risk sending three or four people to the mission field that really should have stayed home than have three or four thousand stay home that could have and should have gone? And lest you fear that unqualified missionaries will go, wasting our precious mission funds, remember that God has provided a safeguard. He has given the church the responsibility to determine who should go or stay.
As one brother said, “If you are not called, why not go and stand in until a called missionary gets there?” The heathen man who gets saved and goes to Heaven probably won’t care who it was that brought him the Gospel. For the sake of the heathen and the glory of God, let’s run some risks. Let’s ignore the religious rhetoric. Let’s hear the heathen’s desperate plea, “Stop playing it safe; come over and help us!”