Recently I was invited to speak to a local association of churches on “The Biblical Basis of Missions.” These mostly rural and small-town churches collectively give more than 10% of their undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program and have done so for many years. So, every day they now support more than 3,600 international missionaries and 2,200 church planting missionaries across North America, in addition to missions efforts here in Illinois.
But like many others, these churches’ direct involvement in missions has been limited by the Coronavirus pandemic. The pastor who invited me said that, as they were preparing to ramp up their direct missions involvement again, they wanted to be freshly challenged with what the Bible says about missions.
It’s been a while since I’ve received an invitation like this, and it gave me a fresh opportunity to revisit a familiar passion. During my last couple of years with the North American Mission Board and my early years with IBSA, I spoke regularly on “The Acts 1:8 Challenge,” the 2005 SBC-wide doctrine study I wrote for Lifeway. One chapter of that book is specifically devoted to the biblical basis for missions.
My main challenge was condensing 24 pages in the book to 30 minutes of teaching time. But I dug in enthusiastically to do so. Tracing the history-long, worldwide mission of God from Genesis to Revelation was a transformational experience for me years ago. I encouraged myself with the thought that summarizing 24 pages in 30 minutes was easier than the original task of summarizing 66 books of the Bible in those 24 pages.
When I stepped to the pulpit that evening to speak, I found it was with a renewed passion in my spirit for the mission of God, and for devoted churches and Christians to be active in that mission today, and in all the mission fields of Acts 1:8.
Out of the overflow of the Spirit’s renewed work in my life, I shared a challenge to those churches to join Jesus in seeking and saving the lost, and in gathering worshipers from every nation, tribe, people, and language to worship the Lamb of God forever, and in bringing our triune God the glory that only he deserves, and that all of creation will one day give him forever.
I believe this is the time for churches everywhere to rediscover their own “fresh opportunities for a familiar passion.” It’s not that we haven’t all had opportunities to be on mission during the pandemic. Many churches have pivoted to creative, even courageous, approaches to advancing the gospel during the unusual circumstances of the past couple of years. But in many ways, churches have also been preoccupied or distracted into other things.
I know I have.
That evening I returned to the joy of speaking about the mission of God, my opening illustration was from the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy and her fellow travelers had fallen asleep in the field of poppies laid before them by the Wicked Witch, just beside the yellow brick road, and just outside the gates of Oz, their mission’s destination.
In the movie, the tin man simply cried about their predicament until he rusted in place. But the scarecrow cried out to the heavens for help. And good witch Glenda then blessed the paralyzed travelers with a gentle snowfall that subdued their enemy and awakened them to continue their journey and their mission.
May the Lord now graciously awaken us, too, and show us fresh opportunities for our familiar passion. What joy there is in joining him on mission to seek and save the lost.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.