By Peter Rodgers
What would it take to see a world that knows Jesus? With more than 2 billion people that still have little access to the gospel, some recent research said if the Australian Church was serious in doing its part we would need to increase our missionary numbers 10 fold. That is a huge call. Where would we find that many people? Where would the money come to support them? Is this task impossible? Of course not! With God nothing is impossible. It is his mission and he can do it. So what will it take?
The solution to seeing a world that knows Jesus is not just as simple as people putting up their hand to become missionaries. What is needed is a movement of God’s Spirit to sweep across our churches. A movement where God’s passion for the lost becomes our own. A movement that will see people make courageous decisions to follow God wherever he leads. A movement that starts in our hearts.
In 1887 Christians in England saw the great need around the world and CMS set a vision to grow their missionary numbers from 300 to 1000 missionaries by 1900. Many said this goal was impossible. But a great movement of the Spirit in the hearts of many saw the realisation of this goal:
Missions were seen to be no mere charity asking for money, but to be a great and holy cause demanding and deserving a front place in the church’s thoughts and in the thoughts of every Christian.
In 1900 there were 1002 missionaries. Praise God!
It is no different today. Every Australian Christian needs to have God’s global mission in the forefront of their minds, being ready to listen to God's word and his leading to serve him. For some, the thought of God's Spirit prompting us in global mission is dismissed as being only for ‘keen-beans’ or ‘super-Christians’. But this is not the way Scripture frames it. The great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” is for all, and it is every Christian's responsibility to be part of it. We need to be ready for God to shape us, convict us, and change us – giving us a heart for the lost even through the everyday decisions of life.
Of course, the way God gives clarity to his purposes in our lives in global mission is very different for every person and family. We each have our journey, and you will read some of the stories from CMS workers in this edition of Checkpoint. For some it may be by listening to a single conversation that God gave a clear sense at one particular moment to make large career-changing decision to serve as a missionary. For others it may be smaller but still significant decisions through reading God’s word, being faithful in making a greater financial commitment or regular prayers over many years. What is important is that these decisions are made in light of God's global purposes.
For me personally it took some time to see that the Lord had been preparing me to serve overseas as a missionary. There was no sudden, flashing light but a growing conviction that God had equipped me for this work. I had the benefit of growing up in a church that encouraged its young people to get involved in ministry and enabled us to have a global gospel perspective through its regular preaching and teaching program. Years later I was working as a School Counsellor in Moree when I first felt really challenged about serving with CMS. A conversation with the Branch General Secretary of the QLD/NNSW branch was the start of a 10 year journey that led us to serve in Indonesia. The pathway to mission can often be very slow.
Once we had made the decision to serve cross-culturally, there were stumbling blocks on the way. After training at St Andrew’s Hall, the door to Indonesia had seemingly closed. This led to an extra year of waiting, uncertain of where we might serve, and unsure of where God was leading us. It was a testing but growing time. Yet on reflection, we learnt to be patient and trust in his purposes through that time. The closed door then opened for us to serve in Indonesia for the next 10 years.
The purpose statement of CMS states that "we work together to set apart long-term workers who cross cultures to share the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ". This is an inclusive statement – it involves individuals, churches, partners and missionaries working together and each playing their part. All Christians can pray and can become better informed about global mission. All Christians can encourage others in their church community. All Christians can have an outward focus and bear witness to Christ right in their backyard. Such ministry is foundational for broader ministry, perhaps as a cross-cultural missionary, in the future.
I would challenge Checkpoint readers to get involved, test your skills and humbly ask God how you can be more useful in his global mission. Over a century ago the movement of the Spirit in people’s hearts saw the expansion of gospel mission. What will it take to have a world that knows Jesus? It starts with you and your heart – as a valued member of God's Church, being open to the movement of the Spirit in your life. Nothing is impossible for God. Perhaps God wants you to take the next step in mission right now.