There are nearly 7.5 billion souls alive today but only a few thousand missionaries on foreign fields to tell them of Christ. If ten thousand Bible-believing missionaries were evenly spaced throughout the world, each missionary would need to reach nearly a million people. This would be like one preacher trying to reach the entire population of Ft. Worth, Texas. We simply need more laborers, thousands more! Unless some terrible world-wide catastrophe occurs, the population is only going to increase. And unless a spirit-ual awakening occurs, the number of missionaries will decrease. Many of us are praying for revival in America; God knows we need it! But shouldn’t that revival result in the evangelization of the world? After all, that is the task that Jesus left us here to do. No one would disagree that we need more missionaries, but missionaries don’t spontaneously appear. They must be developed. Though ultimately it is God who must work in a person’s heart to get him from here to the mission field, there is a very definite part that we play in the making of a missionary. The old adage “we must work like everything depends on us and pray like everything depends on God” surely applies here. Following are some things to consider when evaluating our mission endeavor.
The very first priority of a church should be the Great Commission. A church’s record of missions giving shows us a lot, but a better reflection might be seen in the youth of the church as they move into adulthood. How are they spending their lives? If my church is producing missionaries, we are doing well. But if no one from my church has gone to the field in the last ten or twenty years, we need to consider what we might do to change. Can we say that missions is our priority if we have not taught our youth its value and challenged them to consider giving their lives to it? Do we expect them to work as mechanics, musicians, medics, Marines, or morticians, but not as missionaries? We declare them successful if they do well in any one of these honorable professions, but are they? Someone said, “Failure for a Christian is success at doing anything that is not the perfect will of God.” An unsaved, spiritually dead man can fix a car, fight a war, dispense medicine, or embalm a corpse; but he can’t preach the gospel. Jesus told a young man, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” We must work on our priorities.
Next, we must honestly ask ourselves if we really want missionaries. James 4:2 tells us, “…ye have not, because ye ask not.” Is anyone, from the pulpit to the pew, earnestly asking God to raise up missionaries from our church? We eventually get from God what we need and a lot of what we want. Where are the answers to our prayer for laborers whom the Lord of harvest can send? Are we failing to obey Christ’s command to pray for them? (Matt. 9:38). We must work on our prayer life.
Assuming that we are serious about producing missionaries, how do we do it? Like all important issues in life, it begins in the home. Parents can influence children toward missions in many ways. Read them missionary stories and biographies, holding missionaries up as heroes. Make prayer for missionaries a daily activity; one idea is to keep prayer cards at the table and pray for one or two at each meal. Teach about people and places; prepare and eat Asian food with chopsticks, Mexican food with tortillas, and Indian food with fingers. (Sure it would make a mess, but it would also make memories—and maybe a missionary!) Parents can help their children find ways to earn money for missions; the celebration of any special occasion could include sending love gifts for Jesus’ work to a missionary. They can make missions personal to children by entertaining missionaries in their home; they may even make missions more real by a visit to the mission field with their children. This training of children to think of others takes time and effort, but teaching them basic Christian character qualities like compassion, godliness, honesty, moderation, and a good work ethic are a must. A person can come from a wicked home and still become a missionary. A man in jail can get saved and then go to the mission field when he gets out (or be a missionary there in jail). But how much better when a child desires to be a missionary from a very early age! We must work on our parenting.
The pastor also plays a key role in producing missionaries. He can place a yearlong emphasis on missions, not just at mission conference time. His preaching, praying, giving, and going will demonstrate his level of concern for Christ’s Great Commission. He can preach, plead, challenge, and try to persuade everyone, especially the youth, to consider missionary service. Posting missionary prayer letters along the hallway is great, but doesn’t ensure they get read. It would take a few minutes of valuable pulpit time for someone to read excerpts from these letters and pray over them, but it would show that missions has top priority. Here’s an idea—we have over two hundred church services in a year, and there are nearly 200 countries in the world. Someone could prepare a brief report of a country for each service, and then pray for laborers for that country. These reports might also be used as bulletin inserts. There are many innovative ways that pastors can keep missions before the congregation. We need to work on our pastoring.
Jesus commanded us to pray for laborers whom the Lord of harvest can send into His harvest. Only He can send them, but He cannot send them if they are not surrendered and prepared to go. We must get their preparation right. Father, help us all to do our part to produce missionaries that You would be pleased to send. into your harvest field. Amen.