Thursday, February 12, 2009

Missionaries are ordinary people

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

As our second in-house missions conference drew to an end, my heart was once again filled with the vital place of missions in God’s agenda. It is so easy for this annual conference to simply become an item on the annual calendar of the church. That would be tragic! The first business of the church must be worship—an admiration of the true and living God. This must inevitably flow into the work of missions, i.e. getting the gospel planted in new territories through the planting of biblical churches, so that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14) . That is very plain from the words of Jesus quoted above. So, our missions conference must be one of the major highlights on our annual calendar. It is a barometer of our true spiritual state as a church. It is symptomatic of how authentic our worship really is.

As I looked at our missionaries during the conference I was struck once again by the fact that “God uses ordinary people”. This was evident from the reports that the missionaries gave (below is Pastor Percy Chisenga, our missionary to Malawi, giving a report using a Powerpoint presentation). One could tell that these were men “subject to like passion as we are” (James 5:17). Some were clearly more gifted and more fruitful than others. Others evidently worked harder than others. Some fell along the way. Yet they all had one thing in common—they were ordinary people. Realising this is important if we are going to see more of our people going out to do the work of missions. Missionaries are ordinary people. They are not super human beings. It is a sense of call—and therefore a sense of obedience to God—that makes them go forth into the world to do or die for the sake of the gospel. This realisation is also important if we are going to take our responsibility of praying for missionaries seriously. Only God can make these ordinary men (and women) produce eternal fruit. As the apostle Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). So, let us earnestly pray for them.

God had touched her heart, and that is the way it must be.
The greatest achievement of our missions conferences thus far has been the financial giving. The financial pledges that were made last year and this year towards the work of missions fill my heart with praise to God. There is no doubt that we can do better, but when God’s people decide to give abundantly out of their poverty it is a powerful testimony of the grace of God at work in their hearts (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). One amusing case occurred last year and I must recount it. The deacons thought one young lady had made a mistake on her one-off pledge (she had put her name on the pledge form so that she could be reminded in case she forgot) because they thought the figure she wrote was way too high for her lowly income. Maybe she mistakenly wrote one zero too many! She assured them that it was not a mistake. God had touched her heart, and that is the way it must be. It is important for those who have gone down the mine of missions to be assured that those of us who hold the rope are equally committed to the cause of missions, especially through our financial giving.

My prayer, however, remains that the missions conference will result in many among us giving our lives to take the gospel “to the regions beyond”. This is yet to happen. None of the twelve missionaries we presently have in the mission field have come from our own ranks (see photo of missionaries being prayed for). Be that as it may, I am optimistic that it is a matter of time. Call it faith, if you want. The growing love and zeal for the gospel in the last few years, especially among our young adults, cannot end merely with the work of neighbourhood evangelism. The dam must soon overflow its banks. It would be wrong for us to put undue pressure on them just because we want to see home-grown missionaries. This is such a sacred work that we must simply wait upon the Lord. Yet, I have no doubt that even now he is tugging at human hearts by his Spirit. All I ask of the Lord is that I may be there when the floodgates open!

“Pastor, the greatest mistake we made today was to listen to Pastor Hunt.”
The conference sermons by Phil Hunt, former pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Kitwe, were warm and fresh from a missionary’s heart (see photo). Based on the theme “Send the Light, the Blessed Gospel Light,” they were a passionate call bathed in tears. Phil appealed to us as a church to rise to the challenge of sending the light not only to the towns and cities of Zambia, but also to the rural areas and the Muslim lands in the north. Each day Phil poured out his heart as the arrows of God’s Word were sent flying into our hearts. One young man said to me on the very last day, “Pastor, the greatest mistake we made today was to listen to Pastor Hunt. We all almost left what we are doing now to go into the mission field!”

For me, there was no better epilogue to the conference than what I experienced a few days later while visiting a lady in our church who had just undergone an operation. I found another lady in the church visiting her. The two of them were over-the-moon about the just-ended conference. “Pastor, we thank God that he put it in the hearts of the elders to start this missions conference. It has really enriched our lives. We can now identify with the missionaries because of the reports that we hear from them and the Powerpoint presentations that they make. It is no longer a work ‘over there’. It is our work and we really want to be a part of it. Please let the elders know how grateful we are for this initiative.” You can be sure that as I left that home, my car could feel the excitement in my heart. May this be the general feeling in the church, and may the Lord cause the seed that was sown in the hearts of ordinary people during the just-ended conference to grow and flourish. Oh, that Kabwata Baptist Church may be ablaze with a burning desire to see God worshipped in spirit and truth as his glory is made known in all the four corners of the earth through ordinary people. Amen!

1 comment:

  1. Here are my comments

    'This is a heart warming report. It is clear that the Lord is at work in your midst. O that through these efforts, these missionaries and many more may be supported to the praise and glory of God. And also that many will rise to the challenge of becoming Missionaries.

    I do I agree with you that the work the lord has started in Zambia will not just end there, but Zambia will send missionaries across Africa even beyond. Recently, talking with a dear brother here, we observed how the brethren in the West have come to appreciate Reformed Zambian brethren living abroad, who faithfully open and expound the truth. These Zambians have sort to carry the reformed banner as we know it in Zambia. This is as a result of what the Lord has been doing in Zambia.

    It takes one to see what is happening in the rest of the world to fully realise what a great work the Lord is doing in Zambia especially among the reformed brethren.

    May God bless you and the labours on your hands.