Our church has supported the work of missions from its inception. Even when we had very little money, we helped to keep a few missionaries on their respective fields. For decades now, we have taken a tenth of our general offerings and put that money into missions. In a sense our church, as a body, has given its collective tithes and offerings to missions. And then the Lord enabled us to sponsor 1, 2 and then 3 missionaries – members of this assembly. We have been blessed sufficiently to send large offerings to missionaries whom we don’t support monthly.
All of this looks good on paper and makes us feel good about ourselves. But the truth is – for some it may be nothing more than ointment on guilty consciences. It is easy to substitute our support of missions for our own lack of evangelism at home. And the church’s tithe to missions even takes our personal support of that ministry out of our hands and out of our minds.
Last week’s rare visit of a visiting missionary, should have re-ignited our interest in this kind of ministry. And with the addition of our Colorado members, we have been put into the work of missions even more directly. On the foundation of the instruction we received last week, I’d like to build a little four-sided tabernacle. This message today has a double thrust. First, it contains general instruction to on nature and principles of missions. But I would like you to open your eyes to a potential future missionary endeavor.
Ours is one of the very few sovereign grace, Landmark Baptist churches in the Mountain West. And the Lord has placed into our midst an unprecedented opportunity. We now have a second ordained gospel minister in our midst, one who loves to preach and to serve. Bro. Fulton feels the Lord’s leadership in a special way to help our church to grow and prosper. But I have been talking to him about throwing out a wider net than just this valley in which we live. We have been discussing the need to regularly visit all our western missions and even to other unchurched communities with a view to establishing new missions. Rather than just another member of Calvary Baptist, I would like Bro. Fulton to become a missionary of our church – an itinerant evangelist in the way Baptists worked during the early years of this country. There are details to be worked out, but I would like you to pray about the exciting possibilities which the Lord is opening up to us.
In light of these things, let’s consider the four missionary principles which these scriptures introduce to us. The scriptural nature of missions; the centrality of the church in that mission; The character of missionary work and the importance of accountability.
Beginning at the beginning, let’s think about the Scriptural nature of missions and the missionary.
Are missionaries scriptural, is this theme really Biblical? If you look in your concordance for the word “missionary” you will be disappointed; it is not there. Actually some Christians wouldn’t be disappointed at all, because they’d rather not find it.
But if missions isn’t in the Bible then why are we practicing it? Well, the word “missionary” comes from the Latin language and means “sent one.” There is a New Testament Greek word which means exactly the same thing – “apostellos.” Although there is a difference in office between the twelve Apostles of the Book of Acts and the 21st century missionary, they are both “sent ones.”
When the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul, telling the church to separate them to a special ministry. The church fasted and made it a matter of prayer, then she ordained them, laying their hands on them. Then “they sent them away,” verse 3. Both the initial twelve apostles and these two missionaries were sent by the Lord to the work unto which He had called them. And that is true of all subsequent Biblical missionaries.
When did Paul know he was to be a missionary? That calling was intimated to him shortly after the Lord saved him. In Acts 9 Christ Jesus spoke with the man who baptized Paul, telling him “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” And in Acts 22 Paul declared, The Lord said unto me, “Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” The Greek word “I will send” is “exaposellos” – apostle. Then again in Acts 26 Paul told king Agrippa, “I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” After Paul was trained by the elders in
Antioch and by sitting at the feet of Christ in the wilderness, he went out preaching the gospel of Christ. He was saved by God’s grace, trained under God’s leadership and called by God’s spirit. The work of missions is scriptural and spiritual.
What about Bro. Austin and the work we are proposing for him? First, has he been saved, trained and prepared for a potential missionary ministry? He has. Has the Lord called him to become a missionary of our church? He believes so, and so do I. But perhaps the thought has not occurred to you until now. That is what I am asking you to do. Consider what we could do with under these God-sent circumstances. Why has the Lord brought the Fultons, and particularly a God-ordained minister, to us? Pay for the Lord’s leadership in sponsoring another missionary. The ministry of this particular missionary may be different from that our other three. As I envision it, there will be blessings upon this church as well as on all our western missions. Let your sanctified imagination run – what could God do? Let’s step out by faith and dig some spiritual ditches to enable God’s blessed showers to run.
A second essential principle in missions is the centrality of the local church.
Paul and Silas were members of the church in Antioch. It was while there that the Holy Spirit called them to their special ministry. It was the church which sent them out, and it was to that church they returned rejoicing. The hub of mission work is not some para-church clearing house – some mission board or denominational headquarters. We see Saul and Barnabas being sent as missionaries from one church – Antioch. They were not sent by the church in Jerusalem, nor was anyone else asked for permission, counsel or even financial support. Under the direction of Holy Spirit the work and responsibilities of those missionaries belonged to Antioch.
And first came a recognition and agreement over God’s calling. This is Calvary Baptist’s first responsibility in this regard. Brother Fulton tells us that He has been called into the Lord’s work. The Victory Baptist Church in Loveland, Colorado examined that call and recognized it as of God. And I have been watching the ministry of this man since the time of his conversion. I have no doubt that the Lord has called him to His service. A year ago, several ordained men considered that call and voiced their agreement with that church. Austin Fulton has been ordained into the gospel ministry. Again, I was among those on the ordination council and I told Victory Baptist Church that I believe God has called him and intends to use him, just as He did the former Saul of Tarsus. I still believe the Lord has a work for this man, and it is now through us, and it is special
Now that he is a member of our church, I believe we have 4 areas of responsibility in regard to his ministry. One is in his moral integrity – which is true of each of our missionaries. If I detect immorality or sin in his life then I have an obligation to confront him. There are moral conditions which if not met make him or any man unfit for the ministry. At this point in time, there are no such problems in the life of this man. After that we have a responsibility for each of our missionaries’ doctrinal purity. If Brother Fulton is sent out as our missionary, then we must see that he carries our doctrine. Thankfully, I am not aware of any differences between what he believes and preaches and what I believe. Third, we are financially responsible for the care of his family and ministry. Every missionary and every ministry is different. Paul, for example, didn’t apparently receive support from Antioch, but he did accept financial help from some of the churches he established. Even as a missionary there were occasions when he worked with his own hands to maintain his work or to protect the mission he was serving at the time. In Brother Fulton’s case, there are already churches back east who have caught a vision of the need out here, and some of them are willing to send financial support to a future missionary ministry here. In other words, it seems the Lord is putting His approval on what is beginning to develop. And he plans to slowly step back from his business, spending more and more time in the ministry. A fourth, Calvary Baptist responsibly is in regard to the general activity of the missionary. As his pastor, he will be working under my direction. And since much of his work will be local, I will have more input than I do with our other missionaries. He will tell me of his plans and we will pray about them, sometimes passing them on for your prayers as well. The church in which the missionary is a member has responsibilities toward that missionary.
Our Third Principle is in Regards to the work itself.
Generally speaking, the purpose of our missionaries is to reproduce this church in other locations. As a mission is established it shall carry our Constitution and our Statement of faith, just as this church accepted the statement of faith from First Missionary Baptist Church of Calgary. I won’t demand that any mission be called by our church name, but it should behave as if it did.
And the ultimate goal of that mission work is to establish an indigenous church. By “indigenous,” we mean that it will be a native church. That still means something even though we are talking about an American city. If the Lord blesses, and a preaching station is established in Wellpinit, it will be with a desire to eventually have a native man to pastor it. If a mission on Vancouver Island prospers sufficiently to become organized, we would seek for a Canadian to lead it.
Only one of our three current missionaries receives support from us or any other churches. The other two missions are able to survive on their own. But if they were in need, we would have the responsibility to help if we could. Our support is first for the missionary and his family, and then to the work he does. The people of each mission should be taught to take on as much fiscal responsibility as possible from the very beginning. They should also supply teachers wherever possible, and buy their own supplies if necessary. I’d even recommend that they support missions just as early as possible. And when the day comes that their missionary is lead of the Spirit somewhere else, they should feel no special financial loss or crunch, because they’ve been taught. They should be taught from the beginning to expect to be a self-sufficient, self-supporting church.
Then our fourth Principle is accountability.
After Paul’s missionary trip, he returned to Antioch, sharing with the brethren the joy of the spiritual progress. As the sponsoring church, we have a right to regular and frequent reports of the work. There are several reasons for this: One is that we are scripturally responsible for whatever is done there in our name. Second, reports to the sponsoring church are scriptural, Paul did exactly that. Third, it is wise to maintain a close rapport with brethren who pray and support.
I expect that Bro. Fulton will be with us on a regular basis, keeping us up to date on his activities. But I envision that at least once a month, maybe every other Lord’s Day, he either be out of town, or enable me, to visit some of our distant missions and members. Brethren, the Lord is opening doors which none of us could image a year ago. They were impossible just a year ago. We should be excited about these opportunities. I think we have little choice but to step out on faith and take every opportunity for the Lord to use us.