left this world, he gave his disciples the missionary command: to go into the world and preach the Gospel
to every creature. These were the last instructions given by Jesus:
- (Matt 28:18-20) And Jesus
came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have
commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the
end of the world. Amen.
- (Mark 16:15,16) And he
said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved;
but he that believes not shall be damned.
Next, we will
study missionary work, putting Jesus’ command into practice. The plan is to
study it and point out matters that should be taken into account.
- (Rom 15:20-24) Yes, so
have I strived to preach the gospel,
not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not
spoken of, they shall see: and they that have
not heard shall understand.
–22 For which
cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
23 But now
having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years
to come to you;
take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for
I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by
you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.
- (2 Cor 10:15,16) Not
boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labors; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we
shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly,
We find one of these important points in the Bible and the words of
Paul: Paul always tried to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known and
where the need was the greatest. He always aimed at first going into areas that
were hard to reach.
We should ask
ourselves even now: are we reaching all people and all groups of people? The
same people may hear the same message year in and year out while others farther
away have been forgotten. This may mean that there are a hundred or a thousand
times more missionaries in certain areas than there are in areas where little
or no missionary work is being carried out. This is a huge contradiction that
is surely not right.
The 10/40 Window
is a geographic region in which people have had maybe the fewest opportunities
to hear the Gospel. This is the area where the Gospel has not been taken to
most people who may be Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews or people who believe
in animistic religions. We should have a vision and objective of how to reach
these people. It is not good that missionary work is focused in certain places
where there are plenty of missionaries while they are in short supply in other
areas. Thus, we need a more extensive vision to see the needs in other areas. A
good book about this topic is Praying
Through the Window III: The Unreached Peoples. This is a book identifying
the peoples among whom there are the fewest missionaries. Most of these live in
the 10/40 Window area. The book states the following:
Most of people who have not
had the opportunity to hear the Gospel even once in their lives live in a zone
extending from Northern Africa through Middle East to India and Asia.
Missionaries call this area the 10/40 Window.
(...) Studies show that even
though 97% of people to whom the Gospel has been preached the least live in
countries in the 10/40 Window area, only around one per cent of all funds
reserved for missionary work is being used in this area. Why is this?
Congregations and missions reply, “We are unable to work there very
effectively”. The spiritual, political and economical conditions in the 10/40
Window area are highly difficult. We need a true breakthrough of the Spirit.
NEEDS OF MISSIONARY WORK
work as in any spiritual work, there are matters that should be taken into
account if one is to be successful. The most important include prayer,
financial needs and focus on the Gospel. If these matters are not in order,
missionary work cannot proceed.
Prayer, the most
important facet of missionary work, should not be forgotten. We can see from
the Bible that the most well-known missionary of the New Testament, Paul,
considered prayer important. He often asked congregations to pray for him so
that the Gospel would spread. This is an example we should follow. We must pray
for missionary work and any spiritual work for it to proceed. We should make
this our daily habit.
- (Col 4:2-4) Continue in
prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
3 With praying also for us, that God would
open to us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
4 That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
- (Eph 6:18,19) Praying
always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto
with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that
utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known
the mystery of the gospel,
- (Rom 15:30)
Now I beseech you, brothers, for the Lord Jesus Christ's
sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me
in your prayers to God for me
- (1 Thess 5:25) Brothers,
pray for us.
- (2 Thess 3:1) Finally, brothers, pray
for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified,
even as it is with you
Meeting financial needs is almost as important
as praying. We must have an objective and a vision of how important missionary
work is, and we should feel that we must support it. If our values are wrong –
if we are interested only in beautiful churches (which is a common sin in the
Western world) or our own comfort and living standards – we are in the wrong.
However, if we keep in mind that we all of us have only this one life and we
need Christ in order to step into the eternity, we will see things in the right
light. Paul wrote about how important preaching the Gospel is, and this also
refers to missionary work. If we are not missionaries ourselves, we can support
those who are.
- (Rom 10:13-15) For whoever
shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have
not believed? and how shall they
believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear
without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they
be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet
of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Lack of funding
leading to nobody being sent to do missionary work can thus prevent spreading
of the Gospel. Many missions involved in media work and traditional missionary
work have noticed that there are plenty of open doors through which the Gospel
can be preached but they are unable to step in because of insufficient funds.
Congregations have failed to understand the significance of missionary work and
reaching those far away.
I wish we could understand more fully why we should be
more passionate and blessed givers, why we should learn how to obtain funds
through prayer alone and in groups and why we should be more open and honest
about this issue even if someone may be offended. I strongly stress these
issues based on the two verses of the Scripture I quoted. Not everybody accepts
why we must do so, but the reason is: lack of funding clearly delays God’s
work. Many people do not like it when I say this but I – as many other people
who write about missionary work – am convinced that it is true. Stephen
Gaukroger also wants us to notice this fact. He reminds us that most missionary
work is currently experiencing financial difficulties. Missions have been
forced to let employees go, freeze wages and limit the number of new projects,
and the lack of funds clearly influences the rate at which literature is
the Gospel. One direction in which Western missions have
mistakenly drifted in the past few decades is that they concentrate too much on
social work instead of preaching the Gospel. This means that they have
sacrificed much time and reserves in, for example, building hospitals and
schools, development aid work and feeding the hungry but have forgotten the
most important: preaching the Gospel. All these activities are, of course, good
in themselves and there is nothing bad about them but what is unfortunate is
that they fill only the physical needs of the people and not the most important
need, the salvation of soul from eternal damnation. Such missionary work only
gets people to feel a little nicer before their death but it does not save
their souls. This type of social work without clear preaching of the Gospel is
quite inefficient because it does not usually lead people to God.
it is good to understand that many social problems, even hunger, disappear by
themselves when the Gospel reaches people. The reason for this is that in some
countries, such as in India, the religion itself can be a partial reason for
the famine. In the Hindu religion, rats are regarded as a holy animal and are
thus not eliminated, and they annually destroy a large part of the grain in
India. Similarly, “holy cows” are protected, and they eat grain. If there were
no such beliefs and the Gospel reached people, this alone would remove a
majority of the problems. That is why preaching the Gospel by local people is
When searching for an answer to these questions, I faced poor, often
little educated national brothers who did evangelic work in pioneer areas. They
did not have anything material to be given to the people to whom they preached
– no agricultural education, no medical help, no training programs. But
hundreds of souls were saved and within a few years, a group of congregations
were established. What did these brothers do right in achieving such results,
while many being in a better position failed?
The answer is that we understand
what the missionary work is basically. There is nothing wrong in acts of
charity – but we must not confuse them with preaching the Gospel.
(...) We must consider long and hard about
the disastrous consequences a similar way of thinking has caused the
congregation and its missionary work in this lost world. Could it be that
millions of people are currently suffering in the flames of Hell because we
were so focused on their physical needs that we ignored their actual need?
that if we had preached pure Gospel in China and India during the past century
– instead of the watered down version of the Sermon on the Mount – freedom and
wellbeing would now prevail in most parts of Asia. True Gospel indirectly causes more social
changes than all the effort in the world combined. (3)
An issue that
has not been properly addressed is the support of local workers in countries
like India and many Asian countries. Western missionaries have been extensively
supported but the importance of the local congregation and national workers in
evangelism have been forgotten. They have not been properly noticed, even
though thousands of people are ready to go into full-time evangelism if they
only get support. They are ready to leave for the mission field, but local
congregations are not often able to support them, and that is why help from
elsewhere is necessary. Western congregations have a good opportunity to help
them. Supporting local workers is sensible, particularly in areas where
congregations are already established. Southern India is one example of such a
When the local workers bear the main responsibility for evangelism, there are
also several useful results. The following factors are especially important:
Advantage. Local workers
are much less expensive to support than missionaries. They manage on a fraction
of the costs of missionaries, or on a few dollars or euro per a day, while the
expenses of missionaries are almost always higher.
missionaries can have expenses such as plane tickets, holiday trips to their
home country, language and other education, school attendance of the children,
visas and other payments and payments related to their style of life which has
been materially on a higher level. All these factors together make the expenses
up to ten times higher than those for local workers, which means much. This is
an unfortunate fact.
missionaries are still needed, and their share is significant especially in
areas in which the Gospel has not been preached, and in which there are not
local workers. There are still such countries in the world. Likewise, technical
and other assistance can be useful for the local congregations but the
principle should always be that missionaries are only there to assist in the
work. They do not lead it. Responsibility should be given to local workers, or
it should be moved as soon as possible to them; otherwise, we will drift away
from the model God meant for us to follow.
The same culture is a significant benefit in preaching the Gospel. A
local worker is always in a better position because he knows his nation and its
customs, taboos and appreciations. He speaks the same language and dresses and
lives in the same way as his fellowmen, which makes it easier for people to
receive the Gospel. They receive it much better than from foreign workers. K.P.
Yohannan, the founder of Gospel for Asia, points this out in his important book
”Haaste joka lähtee sydämestä” (Revolution in World Missions):
Have the Asians
rejected Christ? Not really. In many cases, they have rejected only those
Western add-ons, which have stuck to the Gospel. Paul meant just this when
saying that he wanted to be “all things to all men” in order to win even
When the Asians tell about Christ to other Asians in a
culturally acceptable way, the results are notable. One national worker, whom
we support in Northwest-India, Jager is his name, has now preached in 60
villages and established 30 congregations in the difficult area of Punjab. He
has led hundreds to Christ. On my recent journey to India, I dropped in to see
Jager and his wife. I had to see for myself what kind of methods he used.
You can imagine my surprise when I observed that Jager did
not use any special technology as his assistance – unless you want to call his
scooter and tracts given by us “technology”. He lived exactly in the same way
as others. He had a house of one room, which was made from manure and mud. The
kitchen was outdoors, also made from mud – the same material from which all
buildings of the region had been made. When cooking, his wife crouched by the
open fire exactly in the same way as women of the neighbourhood. He and his
wife were completely Indians. There was nothing foreign about them. (4)
TRAINING, DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITY
- (Eph 4:11,12)
And he gave
some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for
the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
- (2 Tim 2:2) And the things that you have heard of me among many
witnesses, the same commit you to faithful men, who shall be able to
teach others also.
One key issue in missionary work is transferring
responsibility to the local workers. This means that if a congregation has been
created in a particular area because Gospel was preached there, further
missionary work should be handled by the locals. Missionaries should not try to
do everything themselves: instead, they should guide and instruct people to
take on the responsibility for the work. The most important task of a
missionary is teaching local employees so that he or she can ultimately let
them take on the responsibility for the work. The local people should be made
evangelists, teachers, shepherds and elders to care for the local congregation.
Only this way can local workers really get into the work. The missionary is
allowed to advise them and give them instructions but always in the background.
Congregations in which preparation and training have been invested usually grow
faster than those congregations that have not done the same.
good example of sharing responsibility is seen in the activities of the
Apostles. When they came to a new place and started
their work, they very soon shifted responsibility to local brothers by choosing
from among them a few more reliable and advanced to serve as elders (Acts
14:21-23, Titus 1:5), and themselves moving onward to new areas. By no means
did they stay to shepherd and lead people for years and years and to do
everything by themselves, as often happens nowadays. Instead, they allowed
local brothers to take care of daily duties and evangelism. This meant the
congregation could grow in a healthy way and the Apostles themselves could move
to work in new fields. Oswald J. Smith describes what can happen if this
biblical model is used and the responsibility is shifted on local people:
Most foreign missionaries are afraid of trusting a local inhabitant. I
remember one such case. The holiday of a man should have already begun long
time ago, but he hesitated to leave. Years ago, he had assumed entire
leadership of the mission station and answered for everything himself. He had
not trained even a single local worker. Finally, he had no choice but leave.
At that time, another missionary happened to visit him.
This was a man who used the biblical line of action. As he wanted to help his
worried friend, this brother asked the missionary to call the leading local
Christians. His purpose was to find among them someone or several persons who
could be given the responsibility for the work. But this missionary, who had
been for years their shepherd, gave quite a hopeless judgment for everyone. The
first had the habit of lying, the second stole, the third had bad temper, the
fourth was lazy, the fifth could by no means be trusted, the sixth did not have
any abilities, the seventh was ignorant.
But he was surprised when the guest called all these
incapable and dubious men and appointed them to positions of trust. One was
called to be the preacher, the second treasurer, the third the supervisor of
the work. Others were appointed evangelists, elders etc. And like this,
everyone suddenly found themselves in a position of trust. And the tired,
overstrained missionary went on a holiday.
A year passed. The missionary expected to see his whole
work in pieces. But he was very surprised to see that everybody had done only
good. The work had succeeded much better than ever before. Tens of souls had
been won to the Lord. The congregation was absolutely flourishing. Evangelism
meetings had been arranged. Money had been collected, the house of prayer had
been repaired and more assembly rooms had been set up.
For the first time in their life, the local people had felt
that they were responsible for something. As frightened and trembling, unused
to bear the responsibility, they had begun their work, but now it was done in a
biblical way, and God blessed it. What a revelation it was to the missionary,
who had thought that he had to do all alone and without saving himself any
chapter proved how important it is to train people and transfer the
responsibility to local people. Another issue that is almost as important is
understanding the significance of the local congregation. We must understand
that missionary work is not about creating a new office of a mission or a new
branch of a denomination but creating a local congregation. If there is already
a local congregation, the missionaries must help the already established
model has not always been followed in missionary work; instead, missionaries
have built new branches of their mission/denomination or maybe introduced
Western influences not well suited for the local culture. They have failed to
understand that the local congregation managed by the local elders is a
congregation complying with the model given to us in the New Testament, and the
final result towards which we should strive. The primary objective of
missionary work is naturally saving souls but another objective is establishing
a local congregation instead of representing a specific mission. If this is not
done, chaos will ensue and the work has been started on the wrong foot.
stressed this objective in his book Concerning our Missions. He noticed
that the work in his country easily concentrated around missions, which did not
give room for the local congregation to develop. This was because the missions
failed to understand how important the congregation is and that they should
transfer the responsibility to the local people as early on as possible.
Why do missionaries often fail today? They keep the
results of their work in their own hands. In other words, they consider their
converts members of their mission and their missionary congregation instead of
creating local congregations or leaving the converts to the already established
local congregations to care. This causes the missionary to expand over time
into a mighty mission, but hardly any local congregations can be found. (...)
Nevertheless, missionary work as an apostolic mission is not absolutely
non-biblical. What is clearly non-biblical is missionaries being intent on
expanding their own mission instead of establishing local congregations.
have no reason to judge the Gospel work of our missionary brothers. Instead, we
have plenty of reason to admire them. However, we are forced to question their
methods in handling the fruits of the work. In the past hundred years, this has
not led to the establishment of local congregations but to the establishment of
missionary congregations, or the establishment of branch congregations of
different denominations, represented by missionaries. We believe that this goes
against the Word of God. The Bible does not mention building denominations: it
only refers to local congregations. Please
forgive me, God, if I'm wrong! (6)
different approaches to missionary work: traditional missionary work, Bible
translation, and “tent building” where missionary work is done while practicing
another profession, as well as short-term missionary work through missions like
Operation Mobilisation and Youth with a Mission. These missions
offer a good way to study the everyday life of missionary work, and they have
been a gate for longer-term missionary work for many.
approach to missionary work is going in pairs or as a larger group to a place
where workers are needed. This is possible if your work in your own location is
established and there is greater need elsewhere. The benefit of this approach
is that people working alone are more vulnerable to temptations while people
working with at least one partner, preferably their own spouse, can cope
better. This approach is also described in the Bible: Jesus sent his disciples
usually in pairs. Furthermore, the Acts states that Paul usually had at least
one person to assist him. First he had Barnabas and then other workers. Oswald
J. Smith wrote:
I feel that many missions make a grave mistake by shouldering the
responsibility of sending missionaries to work on their own. I cannot believe
that there could be a better approach than that shown to us by Jesus and Paul.
Jesus sent his disciples in pairs. Paul left with Barnabas, and when they no
longer could work together, Paul chose Silas instead of going alone. Barnabas
chose Mark, in his turn. And they continued their work this way.
would also like to say that if possible the partner should be your own wife. This way,
the situation is ideal. After all, it has been written that “it is not good for
the man to be alone”. Your wife will sympathize with you more than anyone else.
She can fill a position nobody else could. However, if this is not possible,
the person going to do missionary work should take as his partner a well-tried
and well-known male worker with similar objectives, working methods and belief.
Nobody should ever be sent alone. If this is done, the enemy can completely
paralyze the missionary, and possibly also the work the missionary is doing. (7)
In farming, one important stage is sowing the seeds.
If sowing is not done, no harvest will be reaped. This is impossible because
harvest can only grow from seed: there is no other way.
applies to spiritual work: we must sow, meaning spread the Gospel about what
Jesus has done for us. This means that we must spread the Gospel to those outside
of our congregation, to those who have not been saved. When these people are
not apt to come into the church or the congregation or listen to any Gospel
programs on the media, we should have a plan of how to reach them. We need to
find a way to get the seed of the Scripture to them so that they can be reborn.
This is what Bible says about this work:
- (1 Peter 1:23) Being born again, not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives
and stays for ever.
- (2 Cor 9:6) But this I say, He which sows sparingly shall reap also
sparingly; and he which sows
bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
- (Rom 10:14,17) How then
shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
and how shall they hear without a preacher?
17So then faith comes by hearing, and
hearing by the word of God.
One way of
spreading the seed of the Scripture both in your own country and when doing
missionary work can be spreading the Word in a printed form. People do not
always see the value of doing this. However, the fact is that many have been
saved after having read good spiritual literature. They have been reborn after
having received the printed Word. Oswald J. Smith wrote about the usefulness of
written Gospel decades ago when the modern media were not in common use. He
stated that printed Word is a good and affordable tool to reach people,
particularly when doing missionary work. We should systematically spread
printed Word to people who have never heard about the Gospel. If we sow in this
way, we can also expect to reap something. There is naturally no way of knowing
where people will best receive the Gospel but if we continue to sow, “at the
proper time we will reap a harvest” (Gal 6:9). We must start by sowing the
seeds of Gospel.
The only way of implementing the great command of “go into all the world
and preach the good news to all creation” is doing it using printed word as a
tool. If we are able to send a tract to each home, we can reach all the people
living in that home. I know no other way to better results. There is no way we
can ever send enough missionaries to all the parts of the world, but we can
systematically spread the printed word. (...)
when I returned to America, the country so favoured by God, I started to
encourage all missions I could to send something to read to where it is needed.
“Why do you spend so much time in English literature? Why do you keep pushing
Bibles to people who do not want them? (...) Why don’t you use our assets in
the spiritual favour of those far away? Why don’t
you do something for those who have nothing?”
Thanks to God, they listened to me. My words hit home like never
before. Various missions started to send literature to faraway countries. After that, I have seen hundreds of
thousands of tracts and Gospel booklets sent to where they are really needed.