Go Ye Into All the World
Commended to service for the Lord in 1952, Arthur Stinton is about to return with his wife and family for a second term at the Boma Mission Hospital in Angola, Portuguese West Africa. This is the doctor’s second helpful article published in Food for the Flock, the first being “Health and Disease”, p. 214, November, 1957.
The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ was the final clarification of the fact that God’s grace is without partiality or favour (Matt. 28:18-20).
The first divine intervention in human history with the redemption of the whole human race in view had been the call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). At that time, God had chosen a nation, not that they might be the sole recipients of His favour, but that through them the Redeemer might come, bringing grace and salvation to all mankind. Although for centuries God’s dealings had been primarily with this nation, He had clearly purposed that all nations might come to know Him.
With the advent of the Redeemer, however, God’s eternal purpose came into focus more clearly, as illustrated by Jesus’ own words: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour” (Matt. 11:28); “Other sheep I have … them also I must bring” (John 10:16). Finally came the Redeemer’s commission to His disciples — still a binding imperative on all who call themselves His followers, and still a clear indication that God’s love and grace are universal in scope.
The chief role of the Church is the fulfilment of this commission. The most important directive in the life of any Christian is “Go …teach … baptize.” No believer is exempt from responsibility in this connection; although, obviously, some are entrusted with the direct fulfilment of the command, while others function, one might say, indirectly. But whether the function is direct or indirect, the charge and responsibility are the same.
The most important decision which any Christian can make, and one which every Christian should face squarely, is whether he is to function directly or indirectly in obedience to the One Whom he has confessed as Lord and Master of his life. It is a decision which must be made prayerfully and carefully, in the light of Christ’s command, the world’s need, and one’s own gifts and opportunities.
Clearly, a personal confirmation of the Lord’s commission, such as Barnabas and Saul received, would be a most stimulating experience (Acts 13:1-4). But the trail having been blazed by these pioneers, there is no reason to expect a repetition of such clear-cut direction. While the local assembly has a solemn responsibility towards one of its number who feels separated by the Holy Spirit to a particular work in the Lord’s service, whether at home or abroad, there is no point in always expecting the local assembly to initiate the exercise. However, once convinced of the genuineness of the separation to full-time service, the assembly has a duty to support and encourage by all possible means, the one who has been thus separated.
What are the scope and purpose of missionary endeavour? The simple answer, “to plant New Testament assemblies”, may not be entirely adequate, especially in relation to backward areas, unless all that is involved in the founding of churches be kept clearly in mind. The preaching of the gospel involves much more than just making a public announcement of the way to Heaven. The message of our Lord included direction concerning attitude and action in every relationship and sphere of life. There is more to the founding of a church than the establishment of a weekly communion service. All that He taught must be taught; greater works than He did must be done (John 14:12). The responsibility of the local church, both to its members and to those without, must be constantly kept in mind.
The local church is a Christ-centred community of believers, with a corporate responsibility to God, to other churches, and to the world. In backward areas, the discharge of this responsibility may well involve the church in activities which, in more developed areas, are the responsibility of other agencies. But this is right and natural, and these works should be engaged in until, and only until, other agencies can assume the burden. Then the church should relinquish all but its peculiar religious activities in that community.
What is the reward of missionary endeavour? Precisely the same as the reward for any other Christian service; for, in God’s sight, the missionary is in no special category. He must discharge his responsibilities faithfully in the service to which God has called him, but so must every other Christian. It is true that those who leave home deny themselves some of the comforts and conveniences of life in the homelands, and also the pleasure of various family and social activities. But God is no man’s debtor, and He compensates the missionary here on earth with joys of other kinds, which far outweigh the earthly pleasures forfeited (Matt. 19:29). Any missionary who feels himself entitled to a special share of sympathy and commiseration from fellow believers at home because of the sacrifices he has made, had better re-examine the motives of his service!
On the other hand, the missionary should not be made to exist on the charity, as it were, of believers at home. The latter’s financial participation in the missionary’s work should be on the basis of discharging a responsibility to Christ in the light of His commission, and not merely because of sympathy with one who has gone so far from home.
Neither is there any reason why this participation should not be as orderly as Sunday School work, for instance; or any other evangelistic effort carried on by the assembly. Some have fallen prey to the curious idea that because missionary work is geographically distant from other assembly activities, its support can be on a haphazard or hit-and-miss basis. In fact, some may even think it to be more “spiritual” because of this disorder!
However, the full-time servant of God overseas is not more obligated by Scripture to live by faith than the servant of God who is secularly employed at home, for we are all the servants of God if we profess to acknowledge Him as Master in truth. Unquestionably, assembly missionary enterprise has suffered for years through a lack of true spirituality and realism on the part of many concerned in it.
In the light of indications that the return of the Lord of the harvest may be imminent, there is an urgent need for a re-examination of our motives and methods, with the desire to be more effective in His service, and with the hope that we may not be ashamed at His coming.