Note: This is the fifth of seven articles on becoming a sending church that started with “Cancel the Missions Program”.
In Romans 10:13 we read that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. Paul then presents a row of dominos that must fall for this to happen.
- “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?”
- “and how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?”
- “and how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
- “and how are they to preach unless they are sent?”
The first domino to fall must be “sending.” No one is going to hear the gospel and be saved unless someone goes with the message and those who go must be sent. Ultimately, the rest of the dominos won’t fall unless the someone pushes the first domino of “sending.”
The question is… who should knock over the first domino? Who is responsible to start the process? There are three places where the recruiting of potential missionaries can and should happen: the family, the pastor, and the congregation.
There is another sub-set of dominos in this process that has been created by the Western church.
- Mission agencies provide support systems for a missionary to go
- Colleges and seminaries provide training for the missionary to join the agency
- Churches produce students for colleges and seminaries
- The family produces the next generation of believers in the church
Agencies decry the decreasing numbers of missionary applicants and look over their shoulder to the colleges and seminaries and ask “where are the candidates?” The training institutions then blame the church for not sending more students. The local church then looks to the families in the church and ask why they are not producing the next generation of willing workers. Each entity blames the other.
Ultimately, some of the responsibility for the decline of missionaries numbers may be placed on the backs of families. They can’t take all the blame since the church, the academy and the agency should all be involved in evangelism and disciple making but imagine what a difference it would make if the families of the church were mission driven.
My grandfather was a farmer in South Dakota. He immigrated from Sweden as a teenager with a vision for a new life in America and had an appetite for the Great Commission. The church he attended regularly had missionaries stop for a visit and he frequently invited them to come spend several days at the farm. The evenings were spent around the dinner table with missionaries telling their stories from around the world. It was in that environment that my dad caught the vision for Africa where he spent the rest of his life.
The family is one of the most potent recruiting tools for missions but parents must have the same passionate focus as the Apostle Paul for the Great Commission. This is not intuitive. It runs counter to all that we would naturally desire. Who would normally want to send their children and grandkids half way around the world and have empty chairs at the Christmas dinner table? Who would want to put their family in harms way in some remote corner of the planet? It is counterintuitive to raise your kids and launch them into missions. It only happens because parents have understood and caught the vision of the mission of the church. Jesus put it this way:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:37-39 KJV).
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first” (Mark 10:29-31 KJV).
God is not asking us to do something that He did not do. This is as basic as John 3:16. The gospel and our salvation resulted because a Father was willing to be separated from a Son. Thus it is not an unreasonable request from God when He tells us to send our kids to the front lines.
The future of missions is going to be fueled by parents who say it loud, clear and often that their greatest aspiration for their kids is to do Great Commission work. It will happen because parents model evangelism and discipleship. It will happen because parents take their kids to visit the mission field. It will happen when the family devotional time is dominated by intercession for the peoples of the world. It will happen when missionaries tell their stories at the dinner table to kids who have put down their digital toys long enough to see a world beyond the screen of a mobile device. It will happen because parents stock the book shelves and video libraries of their home with missionary biographies. It will happen when parents replace sports heroes with missionary heroes.
It all comes back to whether we are convinced that Jesus gave us a single mandate. If “storming the hill” is our command, then nothing should stand in our way. If completing the mission is our priority, then no price is too steep. So, one of the key “domino pushers” is the family.