Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Where Are All the International Missionaries?

by David Lemming

In Romans 15:20-21, Paul gives to us his ministry philosophy for spreading the Gospel. He was called specifically to take this message to people (Gentiles) that had never known the “name” (15:20) of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that he never preached the Gospel where others had preached it before him. But, his primary focus (“aim”) was in opening new territories where he could spread the fame of Jesus Christ.

He notes two cities that marked the boundaries of his travels thus far in preaching Christ: Illyricum and Jerusalem. This was a territory of approximately 1400 miles that Paul had traveled in the course of fulfilling his calling. However, this wasn’t the end of what he hoped to do in reaching the unreached. He ultimately wanted to go to Spain (15:24, 28) to continue proclaiming Christ as Savior. Though we have no record in the book of Acts chronicling his travels to that region (Spain was the western limit of the Roman Empire and included all of the Iberian Peninsula), church tradition says he did, in fact, reach Spain after his first Roman imprisonment and possibly even went as far as Britain.

What we see in Paul’s words is that His unique calling was to take the Gospel to those that had little or no opportunity to hear it apart from his missionary endeavors. As was his custom, he usually traveled along main Roman roads (ie. Egnatian Way) to significant urban areas to win people to Christ and plant churches. Once people had been reached and churches organized, these new disciples of Christ assumed the responsibility of reaching outlying regions.

Paul explained his missionary efforts by referring to an Old Testament text (Isaiah 52:15) as support for the work he was doing among the Gentiles. This OT passage provided a clear foundation for his ministry philosophy and validated his efforts in reaching the Gentile world (those that did not “name” Christ). There is a good lesson for us to learn from Paul’s methods and that is to always base our major decisions on scriptures that speak to God’s will for our lives. Paul was not acting on a momentary whim or pragmatic speculation, but on a clearly defined purpose from God Himself.

I thank God for those that are willing to be used by Him to plant new churches in the United States. Even in our own region there are new church plants happening in local communities. It’s clear that there are areas, niche communities, and regions in the U.S. where the Gospel has yet to be heard and/or made available to those willing to listen. But, we desperately need people that will heed the call of God to take the Gospel to regions of the world where Christ is still unknown to most of the population that lives there.

One of my friends that encouraged me during the very early days of my ministry was a man by the name of J.B. WIlliams. I loved to hear him preach because he was skilled in the original languages of scripture and always seemed to have a “nugget” of truth that you couldn’t get from just reading along the surface of the text. Dr. Williams had been a pioneer missionary to the Bariba tribe in Benin, West Africa. When he and his wife arrived there in 1946, they were greeted by thousands of pagan Bariba tribe members but only one known Christian. In Dr. Williams’ autobiography, “God’s Leading Hand”, he writes about the difficulties of adjusting to the Bariba culture, learning their language, and translating the Gospel of John into their language. After they left the field, he went on traveling the globe, raising funds for missionary endeavors and preaching to challenge God’s people to greater missionary endeavors.

Where are the J.B. WIlliams’ today that hear and answer the call to missions where people have rarely or never heard the name of Jesus?

John Keith Falconer said, “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.”

Where is that willingness and openness among us to go on an adventure with God to the regions of the world where few, if any, have heard the Gospel?

The U.S. State Department presently lists a total of 195 countries, though that number reflects the political agenda of our nation. What if you had been born in one of those countries where poverty, oppression, war, disease, and famine prevailed? What if you were living in a place where there was no hope, no peace and no mention of the name of Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t you want someone to come and tell you the “Good News” about Him?

What if you lived where you didn’t have a Bible in your own language? According to the Wycliffe Bible Translators, about 98 million people speak languages where there is no known Scripture, and a further 81 million speak languages which need additional Bible translation work but where there are no current translation activities underway. Presently there are over 2,167 active Bible translation projects worldwide and work still needs to be done in 1,919 languages.

Doesn’t everyone deserve to hear the Gospel and have a copy of the Bible in their language? That’s the task that Jesus left His church to accomplish, but it can’t be done without willing participants to help in the mission.

Consider these two questions as we prepare for our International missions emphasis this month:
1. Is God calling you to this eternal work of carrying the Gospel where Jesus’ name has never or rarely been heard?
2. If God isn’t calling you to go, are you willing to help send those who are going by participating in our regular Faith Promise missions offerings?

“And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written: ‘To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand.’” (Romans 15:20)

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