Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

On Missions

When I first felt called to the ministry, I was basically set on being a foreign missionary.  From my brother, Dr. Jim Hamilton, I had what I think to be a Biblical understanding of missions- that missions entails going somewhere and setting up a local church.  So my thinking at the time was that I would pursue seminary education toward the pastorate, with the goal of being a foreign missionary.  I believe that the twofold goal of Jesus Christ in the world is to build His church by taking His gospel to the ends of the earth.  With this in mind, I believed that I would seek to take His gospel somewhere it has not gone, and by His grace be used to build His church.  I was 100% set on foreign missions.

Now I would say that I am about 50% for being a foreign missionary and 50% for being a pastor here in the U.S.  I do not believe that this is the result of a desire to, as Jim Elliot put it, get fat leaning on a pulpit somewhere.  Although many would consider the U.S. to be a “post-Christian” society and mocking Christianity is both acceptible and expected, Christians are not persecuted here in the U.S. as they are elsewhere.  So, one benefit of staying in the U.S. versus being a foreign missionary is that Christians are rarely violently persecuted here.  The decline in my determination to be a foreign missionary is not, I do not think, the fruit of which the root is a desire to remain here in relative health, wealth, and prosperity.

I think that there are two main reasons for the increase in my desire to reamain in the United States.  First, I do not think that my desire for missions is one that must be met with my own going.  Second, I think that I formerly underestimated the needs of the church right here in the U.S.

As I thought more about being a foreign missionary (pastor elsewhere) vs. being a pastor here, I thought that it was analogous to my college basketball career.  I was a gifted scorer through high school, but I think that I too eagerly accepted that a player must make changes in order to transition from high school basketball to college basketball.  While some changes were necessary, I think that I actually hurt my team in some ways by not trying to score more.  I wanted to be unselfish and not take a lot of shots, but in reality I think that I was in some ways selfish because I did not use my God-given scoring ability as it would have most helped the team.  Similarly, I think that pursuing foreign missions could hurt the “team” if I could put my abilities to better use in other ways.  For example, if I were to stay in the U.S. and pastor a church, and if I, by God’s grace, trained and sent more than one missionary, then that may help the “team” more than being one missionary myself.

Sadly, I have also come to see that I would not only be a pastor in either situation, whether the Lord calls me to stay or to go, but I would also, I believe, be a missionary in either place.  I think that I had a misconception when I thought about the global Church.  Because much of America is characterized by a “church on every corner,” I thought that the greater need was clearly for foreign missionaries.  However, now I do not believe that the greater need is so clear.  The reason that other countries need missionaries is because they do not have The GospelThe Power of God Unto Salvation for Everyone Who Believes.  Tragically, we here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. suffer from the same problem, but for different reasons. 

Every religion other than Christianity holds to the basic belief that there is enough good in mankind that they are able to contribute to their salvation.  Hence, every religion besides Christianity teaches that the right set of works leads to salvation; the wages of works is righteousness and salvation.  Christianity is the only religion that acknowledges that humans are by nature (by birth, according to John MacArthur’s understanding of Greek) sinners, unable and unwilling to be saved apart from the grace of God, and that the wages of sin is death.  Consequently, Christianity is the only religion that deals with sin, with our transgressions against the living God who created us and will judge us.  The true Christian Gospel is the only true good news, because it alone tells us about our sin, because of which we are forced to either choose the cross of Christ or hell.  The good news is that the story does not end with our sin, but our righteous God is able to both forgive our trespasses and not leave the guilty unpunished because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  For the glory of God, for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Spirit, all who trust that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and died as our substitute will be forgiven of our sins.  Those sins will be transferred to Jesus, who paid their penalty in full on the cross, and those who receive Him will receive the perfect righteousness of Jesus, by which alone can we enter the kingdom of heaven.

Because the great majority of those churches on every corner here in the U.S. fail to discuss sin and proclaim the good news that God so loved us that Christ has paid our penalty and died in our place that we may be reconciled to and with God, Americans are no better off with our false gospels than is so much of the world with no gospel.  Therefore, there is just as much of a need for a pastor/missionary in the U.S. as there is in the rest of the world.

So, that is where I am on the issue of missions presently.  Thankfully, with so great a need both here and abroad and so great a decision ahead of me, I have the word of God to keep me from being daunted.  When Elijah felt that he alone was righteous, God told him that He had preserved a remnant of Isrealites who were also righteous.  So it is today, in spite of dire circumstances, God has preserved and will preserve a remnant for Himself.  He is in control of salvation for He alone is the God who saves.  Also, I was recently comforted by the beginning of Paul’s missionary journey in the book of Acts.  Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, and is possibly/probably/arguably the greatest Christian missionary (besides Jesus, if we count Him as a Christian missionary) ever, but from Acts 13:2-3 we gather that the Lord called Paul (and Barnabas) and the church sent them off:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” -Acts 13:2-3

And so, if the Lord wills for me to preach the word, I trust that He will make it clear to me and my brethren in the church where He will have me sent.

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August 9, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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