Friday, 3 October 2014

Called to be a Missionary (Part 1 of 3)

      How do you know whether or not you ought to pursue a career in missions? Have you been called to be a missionary? To be among "the called" (Romans 1:6) means to have been called out of darkness (1 Peter 2:9) into the fellowship of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9).1 This call comes by way of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14), which is God’s invitation to the world to be reconciled to him through Jesus. All who respond in obedient faith are "called in one body" (Colossians 3:15) and "in one hope" (Ephesians 4:4). But does this "holy calling" (2 Timothy 1:9) offer benefits without expectations? No matter how many times I read 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, it continues to say the same thing. If I am a new creation in Christ, then both privileges and responsibilities have been granted by God, "who has reconciled us to himself and [in addition] has given us the ministry of reconciliation." This ministry, which ensures that others have a chance to be reconciled to God, has not been given only to first-century apostles (Matthew 28:18-20) or merely to full-time paid evangelists (Acts 8:4), but to all who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. In a sense, therefore, every Christian is called to be a missionary. The twofold question is: how and where does one fulfill this ministry?
     The body of Christ is of course comprised of individual members, each having particular talents, functions, and consequent responsibilities, contributing to the integrated work of the entire church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). While preaching the gospel is the task of the whole body, both proclaimers and supporters, goers and senders are necessary (Romans 10:14-15; 12:4-8). This is not to say that if I put a dollar in the collection basket each week I have sufficiently fulfilled my Christian duty. While we can never repay the Lord for his manifold blessings, surely eternal life is worth more than a dollar a week! God does not simply want the meager leftovers of my paycheck but desires that I first give myself to him (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:5). What every called/reconciled individual must solemnly evaluate is: am I doing everything within my God-given capabilities to fulfill my God-given ministry of reconciliation?
     Another important consideration is "where" this ministry is to be fulfilled. The obvious answer is wherever you happen to be (Acts 11:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:7). But since the gospel is needed everywhere, it is not simply a matter of where you are needed. You should start thinking about where you might be needed the most. Surely more Christian doctors, social workers, teachers, farmers, factory workers, businessmen, and preachers are needed in Hometown, USA. Wherever there are committed Christians faithfully serving the Lord, let us be thankful. But consider the fact that the United States comprises only about four percent of the world’s population, yet the highest percentage of full-time church workers among churches of Christ are laboring in this country. The sobering question is, who is going to help give the rest of the world an opportunity to go to heaven?2
     Are you among the vast majority saying, "Let someone else do it"? Please be aware that there is no "someone else" when it comes to fulfilling your own personal Christian duty. "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it" (Colossians 4:17b).
–Kevin L. Moore

      1 Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are from the NKJV.
    2 In 1983, as I sat in his World Evangelism class at Freed-Hardeman University, Dr. Earl Edwards pricked my heart with the following statistic: the USA comprises only about 6% of the world’s population, yet approximately 95% of the gospel preachers are in this country. It was then that I made the decision to be an overseas missionary. But in all fairness, this statistic needs to be amended. Since 1983 the number of foreign missionaries supported by churches of Christ has gradually increased, while world populations have significantly increased. Another factor, which seems to have been omitted from these figures, is the number of national evangelists (not to mention other dedicated Christians) in the various mission fields around the world. Nevertheless, the number of missionaries being sent out by North American churches of Christ is still a fraction of what it ought to be.

*Adapted from my book The Single Missionary [2002] 6-13.

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