Every believer a missionary

Henry Martyn was an Anglican priest and missionary to India and Persia. The quote below is his response to the question of how to get churches back home to exercise their missionary calling.

Live more with Christ, catch more of His spirit; for the spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary we become.

Stott on Sentness

If we have resisted the missionary dimension of the church’s life, or dismissed it as if it were dispensable, or patronized it reluctantly with a few perfunctory prayers and grudging coins, or become preoccupied with our own narrow-minded, parochial concerns, we need to repent, that is, change our mind and attitude. Do we profess to believe in God? He’s a missionary God. Do we say we are committed to Christ? He’s a missionary Christ. Do we claim to be filled with the Spirit? He’s a missionary Spirit. Do we delight in belonging to the church? It’s a missionary society. Do we hope to go heaven when we die? It’s a heaven filled with the fruits of the missionary enterprise. It is not possible to avoid these things.

John Stott in The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World, p. 335.

Victor Hamilton on Genesis 10 and Luke 10

Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention a special sending out of seventy (-two) disciples by Jesus (Luke 10:1). The number of disciples is uncertain; the manuscript evidence is divided between reading ‘seventy’ and ‘seventy-two.’ The MT (Masoretic Text) numbers seventy nations, but the LXX (Septuagint) has seventy-two nations (Luke is following LXX?). The significance of the number has been traced to the number of the Sanhedrin or the number of elders in Israel (Exodus 24:1), but the most likely explanation is that Jesus is here reflecting on Genesis 10 with its listing of the seventy known nations of the then known world. Taken in this way, the number signifies that Jesus is sending his representatives into all the known nations of their day. The world he created he must also redeem.

Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, p.348.

Every Believer A Missionary

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My hope is that this blog helps catalyze the following vision: every believer a missionary resulting in a Holy Spirit directed spontaneous expansion of the Church. I’ve heard it said in response to this vision that if everybody is a missionary then nobody is a missionary. The words of the late missiologist J. Herbert Kane summarize this objection.

The Chinese have a proverb: If two men feed a horse, it will lose weight; if two men keep a boat, it will soon leak. What is everybody’s job is nobody’s job. If every Christian is a missionary, missionary work is bound to suffer. It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary.

When missiologists make statements like this they are wanting to preserve the important task of carrying the gospel across cultural boundaries to those who owe no allegiance to Christ. If missions is defined as everything the Church does, what’s lost is the notion of going somewhere to minister cross-culturally. Without crossing cultural boundaries, everybody’s job becomes nobody’s job and true missionary work suffers. I get that. I understand the reasoning. And I agree-for the most part.

Not everyone is able to pack up their family, move overseas, and cross significant cultural and linguistic boundaries for the sake of the gospel. By the way, missiologists call this E3 evangelism. So, yes, in this sense not everybody is a missionary. However, every believer is called to participate in the Great Commission through neighbor to neighbor missions. Missiologists call this E1 evangelism, if no significant cultural or linguistic boundaries are crossed.

It’s at this point that I would like to push back on the missiologist and widen the definition of a missionary. Just because the cultural distance traversed through E1 evangelism isn’t great doesn’t mean the boundaries crossed are insignificant. Often times the most daunting boundary to meaningful engagement with the gospel is, for example, the backyard fence separating neighbors. The person who prayerfully overcomes that boundary has done the work of a missionary; this is more than being a witness.

So, not every believer is a missionary in the E3 sense but everybody is a missionary in the E1 sense. Some believers will cross great boundaries to bring about meaningful engagement with the gospel. Others will cross smaller, less daunting boundaries. Both are missionaries because boundaries have been crossed. It’s with this nuance that I suggest the vision of every believer a missionary resulting in a Holy Spirit directed spontaneous expansion of the church.

Do the work of a missionary. What is everybody’s job is in fact everybody’s job. Cross those boundaries. Live sent!

Steve Moore on Cities

It would be impossible to complete whatever portion of the Great Commission God has ordained for our generation without giving increasing priority to cities.

This statement comes from Steve Moore of Missio Nexus. I think he’s right on. It’s estimated that by 2050 70% of the world’s population will live in urban centers. That’s 70% of 11 billion people. Yet Christians aren’t flowing to cities as quickly as the rest of the world. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the problem. Missions must increasingly become city focused in order to be faithful to the Great Commission.

Success in Missions is a Foregone Conclusion

The following is from a devotional by John Piper called “Then the End Will Come.” May it encourage you as much as it encouraged me. Live sent!
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This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

I don’t know any more inspiring missionary promise than this word from Jesus.

Not: This gospel should be preached. Not: This gospel might be preached.

But: This gospel will be preached.

This is not a great commission, nor a great commandment. It is a great certainty, a great confidence.

Who can dare talk like that? How does he know it will? How can he be sure the church will not fail in its missionary task?

Answer: The grace of missionary service is as irresistible as the grace of regeneration. Christ can promise universal proclamation because he is sovereign. He knows the future success of missions because he makes the future. All the nations will hear!

A “nation” is not a modern “country.” When the Old Testament spoke of nations, it referred to groups like Jebusites and Perizites and Hivites and Amorites and Moabites and Canaanites and Philistines. “Nations” are ethnic groups with their own peculiar culture. Psalm 117:1: “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!”

As the sovereign Son of God and Lord of the church, Jesus simply took up this divine purpose and stated as an absolute certainty: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.”

The cause of world missions is absolutely assured of success. It cannot fail. Is it not reasonable, then, that we pray with great faith, that we invest with great confidence, and that we go with a sense of sure triumph?

Last Sunday more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called ‘Christian Europe.

My old history professor Mark Noll made this comment in the introduction to his book “The New Shape of World Christianity.”  (You can read the intro and an excerpt of the book here.) To think that Europe is Christianized and has no need of missionaries is flat out wrong.  Of all the places in the world, it may be the place of greatest need. Live sent!

In Memory of Calvin Miller

I’m saddened to hear of Calvin Miller’s passing today.  On one occasion I had the privilege of hearing Miller address a group of pastors. He was a masterful preacher and storyteller second only to David Larsen.

Earlier today Ed Stetzer posted a blog containing some facts of Miller’s life. What intrigued me most about the Stetzer’s post was the inclusion of an essay Miller wrote in The Mission of God Study Bible.  It reads as follows:

A Letter to the Church by Calvin Miller from The Mission of God Study Bible

To every Christian who reads this book: you are a missionary. Missions is the joyous work of informing the world that it is loved. Missions is unrelenting in its desire, it pushes in flaming light against the dark walls of human ignorance. It is honest about all things eternal: we can be free only when we know the truth (Jn 8:32).

Missions is clear, cold water—a cup of grace, a draft of life in the desert. It is as free as air, yet as precious as a pearl buried deep in the brokenness of the human spirit (Mt 13:46). Missions is a message, as simple as two words Jesus Saves—one noun, one verb—and yet this simplicity is God’s broad banner posted just above the gates of eternity (Lk 19:10).

Missions is ravenous in its hunger to please God. It knows no other purpose for its existence. It lives for the single pleasure of hearing God say, “Well done, good and faithful slave (Mt 25:21). You have told the truth in a false world, you have turned the iron key of liberty in the steel door of hell, and the captives are freed (Lk 4:18)! For this liberation you have been called “missionary.”

Missions is a divine madness that hears the voice of God’s only begotten, crying from a mountaintop, into all the world (Mt 28:18-20). It takes this cry to bed and pillow every night. It wakes at every dawn, as Christ whispers in the heart, “I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rv 1:18). You must arise for I have come to seek and to save that which was lost. There is no time to waste, the world is loved and doesn’t know it. Hold out your hand and I fill it with gold, and you must go out to give the gold away, making rich all those who are poor in spirit (Mt 5:3). Tell all those who starve about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rv 19:9).

To every Christian who reads this book: you are a missionary.

No matter your credentials. All who name the name of Christ have been ordained by the urgency of God’s agenda in a fallen world. Missionaries are not just those special few who have accepted some certificate of some profession. They are not servants of a special calling. Missionaries are all those who have said “yes, Lord!” To say “I believe” is to understand that you have accepted the commission to go into all the world, starting right inside your home, your village, your nation, your world. You have been empowered. Christ has breathed upon you (Jn 20:22). When Christ moves in, you move out. Out where? Out there! Outside your narrow life. Anywhere is the place to start. So start. Seek! Knock! Any door will do (Mt 7:7). You need no grand beginning point.

There, it is done! You have spoken to someone the entreaty, “Come with us to Christ!” Congratulations! You are a missionary and missionaries are the merchants of hope. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring Good Tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God Reigns (Isaiah 52:7).

But be not proud! In redeeming the world all arrogance is precluded. There are no good, arrogant missionaries (2Co 12:5). Christ’s ambassadors (2Co 5:20) are men and women made humble by the immense size of the message given to them by Earth’s Lover. They feed on the bread they give away. They remember who they were when they met Christ, and just that little act of memory causes them to weep that that they once stumbled into grace, before they were ever called to dispense it. Now they are driven by the joy of God’s call, they are the cleansed unclean, the forgiven forgivers, the wounded healers. Nothing is more important than their preachment. They live for it, they die for it (1Co 9:16). They will not change their minds and they cannot change the subject. They are intentional about one truth, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (Jn 4:29). I can baptize you only with water, but He will baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:16). Thus holding forth the world in their left hand they reach for heaven with their right hand, and the gulf between time and eternity is pulled shut (Lk 16:22). The world at hand is made one with the world that is on the way.

All we who know Him are the heralds of God, missionaries blind to our own greatness because we have served a magnificent obsession, a glorious compulsion, “Jesus lives, Jesus saves.” There is no other significant, eternal truth (Ac 4:12).

The day we became missionaries we were no longer good at the sedentary life. The word “go” forbids us to settle into the plush present, for we know that the future is where we were meant to live, for only the future holds the possibility of us making our next disciple (1Co 9:19). Of course we love our last convert, but that believer has only fueled our fever to meet the next one.

Here in this volume you hold the grand marriage of the Word of God and the Commission of God. This is the book that holds the definition of forty holy men, the Bible writers, who have defined the heart of God. Missions plus the Word equals everything. You cannot serve just one of these, for to serve the Book is to serve the mission (Php 2:16). To fail to serve either of them is to choose to serve neither. Read herein what God has for you, then do all that you have read. Only then will you enter into life a whole person waiting on God, and knowing who you are. And knowing who you are you will find pleasure in your identity (Php 3:8,10).

Your life belongs to the world. Your zip code is the globe. You are a missionary.

Thanks Calvin Miller! I couldn’t have said it better myself. You will be missed.

To all who’ve read this, live sent!