Personal Involvement In Missions
By Marjorie A. Collins
Somewhere along the line, we have confused our concept of missionary work with the mistaken notion that the mission field is “out there,” and God chooses only a few to take part in this endeavor. Too long we have put our check in the church offering, prayed “God bless the missionaries,” and considered our responsibility cared for.
Nowhere in the Word of God do we find that the mission field is afar off. One of the reasons Christianity has had so little influence in our day is our lack of personal involvement in serving the Lord. You see, every individual is either a missionary or a mission field. Therefore; the “mission field” may be your own household, your own family, and, surely, your own neighborhood. Why is it that we are willing to pay others to do this type of work and we are so unwilling to do it ourselves?
“But God didn’t call me to do it,” you plead. And I say, “Poor excuse.” God has given general instructions to all of us. “Ye shall be my witnesses.” “Go and teach.,, “Go and tell.” “Go ye into all the world and preach.” “Ye are the salt of the earth.” One cannot read far in His Word before he finds that sharing the good news ought to be as natural as breathing. We are commanded to gossip the gospel.
If you are to support missionaries who do serve “out there,” you will be better able to enter into their labors and understand some of their problems if you have become a missionary yourself. It is easy to be judgmental and critical of the Lord’s servants when we look on from the outside. Instead, we should be like the wise old Indian who said, “Let me not judge my brother until I have walked two moons in his moccasins.”
Start a neighborhood Bible class in your home; volunteer for visitation in homes in the community; distribute tracts on a street corner, on the bus, plane, or train; become involved in hospital or convalescent home visitation; witness at the local rescue mission; teach a Sunday school class; be-a sponsor for a young people’s group; become a camp counselor; work in a coffeehouse; do personal work at an evangelistic meeting; use your musical abilities as a means of witness; teach a children’s class in your home, garage, or back yard; invite a foreign student over for dinner next Sunday; share Jesus Christ with your friends and business associates face to face; write letters to friends to whom you cannot witness personally; always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you.
Look over this list, and there are many other ministries which could have been added, and your response will undoubtedly be, “I just don’t have the time (or the training, or the ability) ,” or, “I’m basically shy, and I find it impossible to speak to others about salvation.”
Perhaps you are already engaged in one of these avenues of witness and you cannot take on another responsibility because of your full-time job and the preparation time required for your ministry. Everyone would agree that it is far better to do one thing well than to do many things in a careless and slipshod manner.
Yet think for a moment. When we think of our missionary “out there,” don’t we think of him, as a jack-of-all-trades? A servant of the people twenty-four hours each day? We expect that he will spend all his time ministering to the people, teaching the Bible, preaching the gospel. We picture him as a constant, steady stream of endless good cheer and indefatigable zeal. We allow him no time for rest, recreation, vacation, family fun times, preparation, sickness, or sightseeing. We think of him as being deeply involved in every endeavor known to Christians. Somehow we picture him as pilot, doctor, teacher, pastor, secretary, photographer, preacher, musician, counselor, writer, and fix-it man. Yet the truth is, he cannot do everything. He will never be able to reach all the twenty million souls to whom he has been sent. We imagine him as being the great white father, accepted by all as the bearer of truth. We see the streets lined with hordes of people waiting for his arrival, We think the nationals are at a loss when he departs for another area of service or comes home for furlough. We feel he must be a giant of the faith with spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically satisfying answers to his own and others’ questions. He is bold and unwavering in his love for God. He is a friend to every-one and loved by all who come in contact with him. He de-lights in the heaven-like fellowship with his fellow workers. Except for the snakes and lions he encounters daily, little else crosses his path to upset him. His children are models of perfection. His wife fully understands him. Life is a lark, and he never regrets for a second that he decided to be a missionary! Now truthfully, have you ever pictured missionaries something like this?
It is not possible for us to walk in our missionary’s moccasins. Most of us will not even have an opportunity to visit the field to see, hear, feel, and smell it for ourselves. But if we have become personally active in a ministry at home, we will better understand the kind of support our missionary needs.
The first thing you will realize is that witnessing is not as easy as some of our personal evangelism books would try to tell us. We are treading on Satan’s toes, and he begins to make it difficult for us. And he is no less interested in your missionary’s work than he is in yours.
The next thing we discover is that people are not filling up our homes, Sunday school rooms, auditoriums, churches, offices, or any other place waiting to hear the gospel. Very few are spontaneously interested in “being preached at.” People are content with the status quo, whether they are atheists, agnostics, or heathen of any type and description. They are, unfortunately, quite unwilling to give up their traditional beliefs simply because some stranger or acquaintance tells them there is a better way, the only way. Do you believe everything you hear? Others don’t either. Our missionary too finds that most of the people around him are content in their own religion, if, indeed, they have any form of faith.
Not all missionaries are outgoing individuals. Button-holing and collaring folks in order to push the gospel down their throats is just not their way of doing things. And not every sentence which proceeds from their tongue has a scriptural context. Indeed, in many lands, it takes months of idle chatter before the gospel can be mentioned. Winning friends takes time. Once they are won, the gospel can be more freely shared.
If you witness to people yourself, you will understand the frustration your missionary faces when he longs to blurt out the good news of the gospel but must wait until the time is ripe. (I wonder if the Lord Jesus ever pleaded with the Father to allow Him to come to earth earlier than He did, be-cause of His concern for mankind.) If you work with people at all, you will better understand your missionary’s prayer re-quest when he writes, “Pray that we might have opportunities to witness to this individual.” It is not a simple matter of quoting John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and expecting the sinner to be convinced of Christ.
As you become more involved in your personal ministry, you will begin to hear the doubts and questions that people raise; you will see the reasons many choose to remain apart from Christ; you learn what the world thinks of hypocritical and powerless Christians; you experience the very real pressures of satanic warfare; you can also rejoice when you see a soul in darkness turn to the light and become converted.
You will not always agree with your co-workers. There will be differences of personalities and opinions. There may be envying and jealousy. Each individual thinks his way of doing things is the right way, and some feel it is the only way. And missionaries are no less human. Some of their biggest problems “out there” come from the friction they generate with co-workers.
Do you feel your missionary should always carry a Bible and a handful of tracts to give to every person he meets? Do you do this? When was the last time you gave a tract or left one with anyone? “Oh,” but you say, “that’s a missionary’s job. That’s what he gets paid for.”
So that’s it! A missionary is obliged to witness because you are helping to pay him to do so! Perhaps this accounts for the lack of results we sometimes see. We are sitting around the sides of the arena, watching the world pass out into a Christ-less eternity, condemning young people whom we decide should have offered themselves for missionary service, scratching our heads and wondering why our missionaries are not accomplishing more in their areas of service, and hoping no one ever asks us to teach a Sunday school class, sing in the choir, distribute tracts at the hospital, or attend the midweek prayer service.
Don’t we find it easier to go from door to door and say, “We’re doing a church survey, and I want to ask you a few questions,” than to knock on a door and announce, “I’m concerned about your relationship with God, and I feel compelled to share some good news with you concerning this matter.” Witnessing is not something we do for money. We all ought to be doing it because we have a love and personal concern for individuals.
Let’s get this straight once and for all. All the money in the world will not save a single soul. Your financial help cannot be expected to turn a man from the power of Satan unto God. It is only the witness of the Holy Spirit, usually combined with the testimony of a Christian, which can cause spiritually blinded people to see the truth as it is revealed in the Word of God. Your financial investment in a minister of the gospel is necessary so that he does not have to spend forty hours a week working to earn his own living. He has at least those forty hours to bear a witness to the world. It is important that you invest in an individual whose motivation and goal is to proclaim to needy souls the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. But he cannot do this with only your financial sup-port. He must have your prayer support also. If you have entered upon a means of personal witness in Christian out-reach, you will begin to see the absolute necessity of prayer support. And you will begin to pray ,simply, “Dear Lord, give him patience, love, understanding, wisdom, discernment, enlightenment; keep him from succumbing to temptation, his bad temper, his critical thoughts, his unkind actions; help him to redeem the time, to care for his family, to exude Christ through his being as well as in his saying and doing.” You will see your missionary as a human being who needs the same things in life that you do, including love, praise, enjoyment, financial independence, comforts, acceptance, protection, escape from pain, and popularity. He has a desire to save time, avoid effort, gratify appetites, satisfy curiosity, be like those whom he admires, receive attention, avoid trouble, and take advantage of opportunities. These human needs are a part of each one of us.
As we begin to understand some of these things more fully, we shall approach missions and missionaries in an entirely different frame of mind than ever before. Missionaries are not looking for your sympathy, but if you can empathize with them, you have come a tremendously long way along the path of involved missionary support.
Remember that to know the will of God is the greatest knowledge; to find the will of God is the greatest discovery; and to do the will of God is the greatest achievement.
Article “Personal Involvement In Missions” written by Marjorie A. Collins is excerpted from Who Care About The Missionary: Suggestions For Those Who Do written by Marjorie A. Collins.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”