Feature

We’re Out to Reach the World

Why do we care?

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“Sit down, young man! If God wants to save the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or ours!” These words were fired at William Carey when he expressed his dream to take the gospel to Asia. In 1792, this was the attitude of contented Protestants in Europe and America.

But William Carey did not “sit down.’’ He had been gripped by a vision, and his passion was to complete the Great Commission. Carey went to India and became the founder of the modern missions movement and the inspiration for generations of missionaries.

World Evangelization

The Alliance maintains overseas missionaries at the cost of millions of dollars each year. Why should we send these workers abroad when there is so much need at home? Why should young people give up their lives to serve Christ in some far off place? Is the rationale for the worldwide missions movement biblical?

The first motivation for missions is to glorify God. The psalmist exhorted: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Ps. 96:3). The highest exercise of the human heart is to worship God. The more people who worship Him, the more God is glorified. The will of God is that His glory be made known among all nations so that many will hear and believe and praise Him (2 Cor. 4:15).

In Vietnam where my wife, Beth, and I worked, ancestor worshipers whose lives have been transformed are lifting their hearts to the Lord in hundreds of churches. Thousands of tribal people, who fearfully offered animal sacrifices to evil spirits and brought offerings to the gods of the fields, forests and rivers now glorify God with sacrifices of praise. On the island of Java, Indonesia, where we also served, people whose lives were once filled with spiritism and superstition are now singing, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done . . .” This is happening because of the worldwide missions movement. Above all else, missions is for God’s glory.

The Purpose

The theme of the Bible is God’s redemptive work in history. Long ago, God chose the people of Israel. He didn’t choose them for their own sake; God in His sovereign design called out this insignifi cant people so that through them all nations would be blessed.

Although Israel failed many times, God’s purposes could not be thwarted. Through numerous trials and exile, God spared a remnant. From the tribe of Judah the Messiah was descended. Jesus preached to the poor, healed the sick, fed the hungry and raised the dead. It soon became clear that His mission was universal.

Jesus moved resolutely toward the cross, for He knew He was destined to create a new international people. When Christ had accomplished His redemptive work and had sent the Holy Spirit, the Church was born. Today, the Church has been given the responsibility of fulfi lling the redemptive purpose of God by carrying the good news to all nations.

Reaching the Lost

Men and women wander through life without God and without hope, bowing at every shrine imaginable: pleasure, materialism, evil spirits and false gods. Many are desperately seeking a religious experience or trying to follow religious regulations in the hope of drawing nearer to God.

The lost are never satisfied, because they do not know Him who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one reaches God without Jesus (John 14:6).

Billions of people do not know Jesus Christ. Many have had the opportunity to hear the gospel and have rejected it. Others could be reached if all churches had extensive near-neighbor evangelism programs. But millions of non-Christians are not culturally or linguistically neighbors of a Christian. It takes a special kind of cross-cultural evangelism to reach them.

Although there are Christians in almost every country, there are many unreached groups within those nations. A people group has common customs, traditions and lifestyles. They speak the same language and are members of the same ethnic group. Unreached peoples lack the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved. This is one reason The Alliance gives highest priority to sending missionaries to other countries even though there are many lost people within our borders.

Jesus Christ is the only Savior of lost men and women. His purpose for coming was to seek and to save the lost. The apostle John declared: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12).

Faith for Salvation

Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer, but Scripture clearly teaches that all people must hear the gospel in order to believe and be saved. Faith is essential for eternal salvation.

The idea that all religions are equally valid—that each one is another way of leading men and women to the same God—is untrue. It is wishful thinking to assume that because Christ has come to provide redemption for the whole world, all people automatically will be saved.

This is the logic of missions: “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:13–15).

Paul wrote: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14–15). One of the greatest motivating forces for missions is Christ’s wonderful love, demonstrated on the cross.

We are to be like Him in holiness and in mission. Our lives must have as their prime motivation a deep, ongoing love for Christ. If we are motivated and compelled by the love of Christ, then we will reach out to the lost world He died for.

Christ is the sustainer of the universe, and He is preeminent and supreme above all creation. Paul wrote: “… God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11). For this reason, Jesus could say to His disciples after His Resurrection, “‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’” (Matt. 28:18–20).

We can go into Satan’s dominion because Jesus has the authority to save men and women from the enemy’s power. To be committed to Jesus Christ as Lord means to be committed to obeying of His commandments.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is essential to world missions. If we are not motivated, filled and controlled by the Spirit of God, all we do is in vain.

Our English translations of the Bible don’t capture the full meaning of the Great Commission. Greek scholars tell us that the word “go” used in the Commission is not in the imperative, or command, voice. However, “preaching,” “teaching” and “making disciples” are imperative. A more literal translation of Mark 16:15 would be: “Going/ having gone, or when you go into all the world, preach the gospel to every creature.” Matthew 28:19 would read: “Going/having gone or when you go, make disciples of all nations, teaching them …”

There is a connection between Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come” and Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” It seems clear that the climax of history—the return of Jesus Christ to earth again—is closely connected to world evangelization.

But what compels us? Acts 1:8 states: “‘… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” The Holy Spirit thrusts us out to be His witnesses at home and abroad.

Fulfilling the Great Commission

The founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Dr. A. B. Simpson, said: “It is the most powerful incentive to missionary effort. If the preaching of the gospel to all nations be the last condition before His coming, all that love His appearing will seek to hasten it by fulfi lling this condition.”

Our country has been abundantly blessed by a gracious God. Our wealth, technological advances and opportunities for education all come from God. Certainly we must be willing to share!

We also have been blessed in a spiritual sense. We have more Christian programs, clergy, bookstores, universities and seminaries than any other country. There are more Christian workers in many large American cities than there are in entire nations in Asia and Africa.

While we enjoy God’s blessings, there is an enormous spiritual famine that circles the globe. Simpson was convinced that “we are blessed to be a blessing” and “that we have been committed a sacred trust to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

How I pray that we will be able to stand at the judgment seat of Christ with clear consciences and joyful hearts because we lived the call together. Our Lord will commend our faithfulness because the Great Commission was completed.

SLEEPING GIANT

For sometime now, I have believed exactly what Dr. Gary Benedict, the U.S. C&MA president, stated in the July 2005 issue of Alliance Life. The older generation is truly a “sleeping giant.”

Nowhere in Scripture do I find a directive for laying down the baton at a specific age. The provisions of pensions and other benefi ts of aging should be an incentive rather than a deterrent to further ministry. The Bible is replete with examples of men and women whom God used signifi cantly in their “old age.”

After pastoring in C&MA church-planting ministries in western Canada since 1966, I returned to school at age 55 to complete a master’s degree in counselling. After this I was called to be a preaching and counselling pastor in a growing Alliance church while continuing a private practice.

This led to part-time teaching in a local college and an invitation to teach a counselling course in Kampala, Uganda, where I was invited to set up the counselling department at Uganda Christian University in Mukono. My coworkers and I launched a master’s degree program in counselling psychology to prepare counsellors for many needs, especially among the thousands of traumatized people in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.

My wife has established nutrition and cooking classes in our home that are changing lives. These courses are oversubscribed, with a waiting list. Daily we have amazing opportunities to counsel and pray with people who come to our door.

It was not easy to leave our sons, their wives and our six grandchildren, but the joy of being used by God is beyond words. We are busy working ourselves out of a job, training Ugandans so that when we are not here, the ministry will be firmly established and carry on.

The call of Jesus to “follow me” does not end until we hear His words: “well done.” Not everyone can go abroad, but everyone can use their resources and gifts to serve where God leads until He calls us home. There we will be able to serve Him for eternity!

—Arnie Toews

Past Alliance Life Issues

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