Why not Missions?
The Very Rev’d Canon Robert S. Munday, Ph.D.
Nashotah House is a seminary with a long and profound commitment to missions. From our founding by missionary Bishop Jackson Kemper to today’s seminarians 164 years later, our aim is for our graduates to be “world Christians”—those who have a sense of what God is doing in the world, and who can lead their congregations in mission involvement.
But what about those who are not seminary graduates? Christ’s Great Commission to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15) is not limited to those who are ordained. Every member has a part to play as the body of Christ seeks to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18).
The last 30 years have seen a flowering of mission activity among Episcopalians/Anglicans in the United States and the birth of many mission agencies and diocesan mission committees that are not only helping career missionaries get to the field, but are also providing opportunities for individuals and parish groups to gain firsthand experience through short-term mission trips.
Often when people think of going out to engage in missions, whether short term or long term, immediately obstacles spring to mind that freeze them in their tracks. Here are eight objections I often hear from people and a response from Scripture to each one.
1. “I am not smart enough” or “I don’t know enough to be a good missionary.”
“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)
“Consider your calling, brothers [and sisters]: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
2. “My body and my personality are not strong enough.”
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
“[Christ] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
3. “I am not a good speaker.”
“Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)
“Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:10-12)
4. “I am afraid of the horrors I read about in the newspapers.”
The apostle Paul, who, like other Christians of his day, endured great persecution and suffering for the sake of the Gospel, said, “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
5. “I am afraid I won’t be fruitful”
Your responsibility is not to be fruitful but to be faithful.
“And [Jesus] said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
6. “There is plenty to do here.”
That is true, but an experience in missions will transform and enliven the work you do for Christ for the rest of your life, wherever that may be. Also, while there is work to do at home, God calls the Church to do MISSIONS, not just pastoral ministry, evangelism, and social outreach. The difference is seen in Romans 15:19-24:
“So that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I [Paul] have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named. . . Now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions . . . I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain.” (Romans 15:19-24)
How could Paul say there was no room for work when there were thousands of Christians in that area and thousands more to be evangelized? Because pastoral work and evangelism are not missions. “Missions” refers to the apostolic ministry of taking the good news of Jesus Christ to a nation, tribe, or people who have not had a Gospel witness in their culture previously.
7. “I fear that when I get there it might turn out I made a mistake and will come home embarrassed.”
First of all, come to grips with your fear. God has a way of taking even our most humble efforts and using them for His glory; and He will use YOU! But if you do not turn out to be the greatest missionary since David Livingstone, which is worse, embarrassment for having endeavored to follow Christ in missions, or fear to venture? Embarrassment will not hurt you; it will humble you, and it can make you more useful in a new situation. But fear will make you useless everywhere.
Consider Ecclesiastes 11:4 and what it says about risk: “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” In other words: people who fear the risk of sowing when the seed might be blown away and reaping when the rain might ruin the harvest will have no harvest at all.
8. I want to be a part of missions, but I don’t have the slightest idea of how to get there, or even how to prepare.
There are a number of organizations that can help you or a group from your church plan and prepare for a mission experience—either short term or long term. Let me mention two with an exceptional track record:
· The South American Missionary Society—SAMS, PO Box 399, Ambridge, PA 15003, (724) 266 0669, www.sams-usa.org, Stewart Wicker, President and Mission Director; Lynn Bouterse, Short-Term Ministries Coordinator.
· Sharing of Ministries Abroad—SOMA USA, 5290 Saratoga Lane, Woodbridge, VA 22193, (703) 878-7667, www.somausa.org/, Mrs. Edwina Thomas, National Director, The Rev. Canon Les Martin, Associate Director.
The Very Rev’d Canon Robert S. Munday, Ph.D., is Dean and President of Nashotah House Theological Seminary and Canon Theologian of the Diocese of Quincy.
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