The church from which this church sprang was named: “First Missionary Baptist Church.” You might say that it was the Antioch of this church, just as Antioch in Syria was the means of starting the churches in Lystra, Iconium and Derby through their missionaries. The missionary who started that church in Calgary, Ken Johnson, never told me why he gave it that name. Looking back on it, the word “first” sounds a little arrogant. It could mean that Brother Johnson believed there had never been a Missionary Baptist Church in Calgary before? On the other hand, he might have been looking forward rather than back. It was the first of many. But why did he put the word “missionary” into that name? Was it because he was a missionary, and that church was started as a missionary arm of the Victory Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas? Or did he hope that church in Calgary would become the Antioch of other churches across Canada? I have no doubt but that was Brother Johnson’s hope, but I can’t say that had anything to with the name. While he was in Calgary, he never had the privilege of starting any other churches. By the time we sponsored this church down here, he had moved on, and I was the pastor.
Going back to that name “Missionary Baptist Church,” what exactly does that mean? Is it just a name, an appellation, a cognomen, or does it really mean something special? It used to be that many churches, especially in the south, called themselves “missionary Baptists” to distinguish themselves from the anti-missionary Baptists that flourished for a while. “Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.” “Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.” There are still a great many “missionary” Baptist churches, but it has become a denominational title. It is very common in the Southern Baptist Convention. But just because a congregation isn’t against missions that doesn’t mean it is truly “missionary-minded.”
And consider that hyphenated word. What is it be “missionary-minded?” It is not a term which we find in the Bible. In fact there is no form of the word “mission” anywhere in the King James Bible. That is a theological term which we have applied when churches send out people like Paul, Barnabas and Silas to start other churches. And again, I point out that nowhere do we read that they ever started “missions;” they organized churches. But they were men on a mission – a mission from God sent out through one of the Lord’s churches.
Despite its Biblical absence, I’m going to use that word and that idea for this evening’s message. According to the common definition, I want Calvary Baptist to be an “mission-minded” church. And again, in that light, I want to examine the question: “What makes a church ‘missionary?’” And I’ll go on record from the outset that we are not as missionary-minded as we ought to be. I am not as missionary-minded as I believe the Lord would like me to be. It may be a good thing that we are not the “Post Falls Missionary Baptist Church,” because we may not deserve that name. Perhaps that church in Calgary was mis-named.
Here are a few things in which many churches boast, but which do not make them “MISSIONARY.”
As I said, some churches may have the word “missionary” in their name, but that doesn’t make them truly “missionary.” Other churches may not have the word in their name, but they do post it on their sign and in their literature. They describe themselves as “missionary” churches, and that is how they picture themselves. But just to make the statement doesn’t make it a fact. (We’ll come around to trying to define the term in a few minutes.)
For a church to have a wall, or a bulletin board, on which they post a few letters from missionaries, doesn’t make it a missionary church. And to publically read the letters which come from missionaries, doesn’t make the church “missionary.” To announce that posted on the missionary board there are new pictures from a missionary, doesn’t in itself create an atmosphere of missions. It doesn’t automatically instill a desire to run back to look and to read those letters. I have been in church buildings where there have been long hallways and running down both walls there are 8½x11 inch photographs of the missionaries they support. That hall and those pictures don’t make the church truly missionary. In fact, often in those churches with lots of missionaries, their prayer letters are posted but not read, because there isn’t time to read them all, or they don’t take time to publicly read them. And as a result the members of those churches have no idea – or concern – about what is going on in the Philippines or Taiwan, because those Christians don’t take any more time than their church to read them. A mission wall, a world map, and a bulletin board do not necessarily indicate a “missionary-minded church.”
Furthermore, just because a church has a large missionary budget, that in itself may not really be very “missionary-minded.” What if the church was so old, and so financially well-invested that they were putting money from bank deposits into their mission fund? It could be that not a single person in the church cared for missions at all, despite supporting two hundred missionaries. It could be that no member ever gave anything above his 10% to support the church’s missionaries. Many Baptist churches in the various denominations, dutifully send checks to the mission board, but rarely consider the missionaries themselves. What if the church employee salaries, pastors’ retirement funds, and property maintenance fees were larger than their missionary support. What does that say about their missionary attitude? Is a church “mission-minded” if it refuses to support a good evangelist but it spends $200.00 a month on fresh flowers for the auditorium?
Just as to believe we have a future home in heaven doesn’t make us heavenly-minded, to be a member of a church supporting fifty missionaries at $50.00 or $100.00 a month doesn’t make it “missionary-minded.” Just to have a mission budget of $5,000 a month or even twice that, doesn’t mean that the membership is excited about seeing souls saved and churches started in Asia, Achaia or Macedonia. Some churches take a tithe of their general offering and use that money to support their missionaries. But that doesn’t make the membership of that church “mission-minded.” In fact it might produce the opposite effect. The individual may think that since his church is supporting missions, he doesn’t have to. How many of the members of those churches ever consider giving directly to missions themselves? If that church didn’t implement that plan how many missionaries would it support. Is it a “mission-minded” church if the members don’t personally give to missions, think about missions, or consistently pray for their missionaries?
Let’s say that the pastor of that church often preaches and teaches on evangelism and missions. That is certainly a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the church is on board with the idea. And to be a student of missionary history doesn’t make anyone a missionary themselves. To be able to talk intelligently about the lives of Adoniram Judson or William Carey may be a good thing, but those people’s service for Christ does not automatically translate into our service for the Lord. And to grieve over what godly missionaries have had to suffer, or what some are suffering right now in places like Asia and Africa, doesn’t necessarily mean we have “missionary hearts.” It would be wonderful to have a stream of missionaries visiting us, presenting their burdens, and sharing their testimonies, but all those visitors might not be able to stir us if we don’t already care about missions.
On the other hand, to have a romantic notion about preaching in a foreign language to large crowds of attentive natives, doesn’t mean someone is “mission-minded.” Missions isn’t about babies with bloated bellies, or digging wells so that a village might have clean water. Missions isn’t about teaching people to read so they can understand the “Koran” or eventually read “The Communist Manifesto.” If a church doesn’t understand the Biblical purpose of the missionary-evangelist then no matter what they might call themselves they aren’t a missionary Baptist church.
A church might even sponsor and send out their own Paul and Silas, but once they have departed that church may not think about them as often as they should. If they have sent one of their own sons to some foreign field, his parents may pray for him every day, but after some time other church members might not be quite as diligent. In other words, to sponsor a missionary doesn’t necessarily make that church “missionary.” And is a church truly “mission-minded” if they only pray for their missionaries once a week?
I’m just asking the questions. You can fill in the answers.
What makes a church truly missionary?
I think that it begins with God’s blessing. Every good thing that we are – every good thing that I am – has ultimately come from the Lord. We can’t thank our lucky stars that we have money to invest in missions. We can’t pat ourselves on the back for the good sense to have made some wise investments – investments in time, in education, and in choosing to join a good church. I have heard of Christian parents, who tried to keep their children from risking their lives in taking the gospel to the lost. It is by the kindness of God that a church has the privilege to send out one of their own. Every Baptist church should plead with God for that opportunity.
James, the servant of the Lord, made the statement: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” That is an oft quoted verse, and well it should be. But next verse should be quoted as well: “Of his own will he (God) begat us with the word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” Every good thing we do or possess has come from our Heavenly father, not only for our blessing, but for the blessing of others – as first fruits. If a church is truly “mission-minded,” it is because the membership realizes that it has been blessed by the Holy Spirit with that kind of mind.
And with that divine blessing, it will be a church filled with “mission-minded” prayer. Not only will there be prayer for world-wide missions in general, but the actual names of its missionaries will be lifted up to the throne of God on a regular basis. And it will not be their names alone, but it will include specific things of which they have been informed. And if there are no specifics, such as individuals who need Christ, then that American church should be praying that their missionary be led to those individuals who could be mentioned in an upcoming letter. We should be praying for baptisms and the discipleship work of the missionary, and that he might be able to quickly organize a new church in order to move on to another place. If the church realizes that kind of prayer is falling away or int the area of non-essentials, then it should pray to become more “mission-minded.” Every church should pray to become more “mission-minded.”
What is the purpose of a gospel church? What is the purpose of the missionary? We might focus on the finer points: evangelism and organizing new churches, but there is a higher purpose. The work of Paul, Barnabas and Silas – the work of Timothy and Titus and all the others – was ultimately about bring glory to the Saviour. Evangelism and God’s glory should go together; they should be considered in the same thought. When a church begins to loose its missionary interest – it’s interest in souls – quite often there is also a loss of desire for the glory of the Lord. When this happens that church needs to double-down on its primary priority. It is not about missions and souls per se, it is about the Lord. I don’t care what others might say, but a church which is not “mission-minded” is not “heavenly minded.” It isn’t as godly as it ought to be. It might be doctrinally correct, singing the right kind of hymns, holding Sunday evening services, and condemning the liberals, but it is not “missionary-minded.”
Furthermore, I don’t see how a church that has little interest in local evangelism, can be called “missionary.” There are Christians who are quite willing to give money to support a missionary, but they wouldn’t dare to speak to their neighbor about Christ. Once again, that mission money doesn’t prove “mission-mindedness.” Those churches need to pray for the gift of soul-awareness; pray for a burden for souls. As I say, it is the Lord who makes a church “mission-minded.” I can’t emphatically declare that a church which is not seeing local people come to Christ is not “mission-minded,” but sometimes those things run parallel to each other.
And neither would I say that a church which doesn’t have some of its own members out starting churches is not “mission-minded,” but again, this lack may say something about the church. It may say that the pastor doesn’t lay the need of missions before his church often enough. It may say that the congregation isn’t as evangelical-thinking as it ought to be. Why doesn’t it have some people like a young Simeon Niger or Lucius of Cyrene?
Think about that church in Antioch for a moment. “There were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers,” and five men were named. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” How important were Barnabas and Saul to the work of the Lord in Antioch? Could we justly say that the church sacrificed 40% of their spiritual leadership for the sake of missions? Could we say that before a church should be called truly “mission-minded” it needs to have begun to sacrifice for missions – for souls – for the glory of God? What should come first: a paved parking lot or two or three missionaries supported on a regular basis. What should come first: a church meeting to decide whether or not to in stained-glass windows and chandeliers, or a dozen men pleading with God to blessing the work of the Lord in India and Argentina?
Of course, we all know there is no perfect church in this world. And the truth is: the more evangelical a church is, the less perfect it may actually be. Ideally, there should be new Christians in each congregation – people needing to be discipled and taught what missions ought to be. And even among the established and entrenched members, people’s zeal ebbs and flows. But I think it can be said that if there isn’t a consensus, if there isn’t a majority of people concerned about missions it would be difficult to say that it was a “mission-minded” congregation. A lukewarm church may be made up of several members on fire for the Lord, but next to them are members as cold as ice. And a church which is not on fire for Christ is asking for the Lord’s chastisement.
I would like to think that our church is moving in the right direction. I would like to think that the Lord is pleased with what we are doing. Obviously, our home base needs to be strengthened in order to do more elsewhere. But are we thinking too much about ourselves and not enough about our world-wide responsibilities?
What do you think: should anyone say that Calvary Independent Baptist Church is truly “mission-minded?” What do you think the Lord would say about us in this department?