by Dr. Stan Mitchell, assistant professor of Bible and missions
Some words about missions, because they need to be said once in a while. The Lord said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:20). One does not make disciples for oneself; one makes disciples of Christ. A disciple is a “pupil,” an apprentice for life. The emphasis, therefore, is not so much on the initial act of becoming a Christian, but on the full and complete process of maturing and growing into the disciple we ought to become! Here is a life-long process.
Thus, one “makes disciples” by going, baptizing and teaching. Making disciples involves “going.” Going where, we might ask? The answer is, going to “all the nations.” In other words, this is a worldwide call.
Now I must be cautious in my next remarks, for I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not against youth ministry, and I am not against new church buildings. I am not against local outreach efforts, and I am fascinated by the possibilities technology offers for evangelism with mass printing of material, the Internet, short wave radio broadcasts, satellite communications, PowerPoint and so on.
But I know, because I have talked to them. It is harder and harder for missionaries to get the support they need to do their job. They can’t compete with the professional marketing specialists of the parachurch organizations that ask for church resources. They can’t compete with a program that says it will reach millions with a message. All missionaries can offer is their integrity, their love for the lost, the friends and brethren they know on their mission field, the relationships they have earned, and the example of their lives before the people of their far off country.
This also needs to be said by someone; though there are undeniable benefits derived from summer campaigns, a dozen excited Americans on a mission field for two weeks does not make up for the loss of a long term missionary. When he learns the language, the culture, and gains the confidence of the people he serves, he has undergone a process of years, perhaps decades. This is something that a webpage on social media can’t do. A long-term missionary is not working with “prospects,” he is working with people. They know he is serious about their souls. He has demonstrated his care for them by being there.
It is also hard to compete with our selfishness. We want programs for us, we want technology for ourselves, we want magnificent monuments for us, we want things to amuse our kids. So can I say it this way? God forbid that a single missionary fails to reach the mission field because we were selfish!