Theological Reflection

The World Has Changed – Should We Still Be Sending Missionaries?

The world has changed a lot in the last hundred years. A lot of things that used to make sense no longer do. A lot of people ask the question: is overseas missions one of those things? Should we still be sending missionaries overseas? That’s a legitimate question, and there are many reasons people raise for why we should not be sending them.

Missions

One of the common reasons people bring up is that there are many people in our own Western countries who don’t know Jesus. Shouldn’t we focus our efforts here before going overseas? The secular West is the new mission field, we’re told. And wouldn’t it be a far more economical use of resources to focus on evangelising at home rather than on the other side of the world?

Not A New Objection

This objection to missions actually isn’t a new one. At least as far back as 200 years ago, people were arguing the same thing. Take care of our own back yard before sending people to someone else’s!

But in 1792, a man named William Carey responded to this objection in a short book on missions. His response is instructive still for us today. He says,

“It has been objected that there are multitudes in our own nation, and within our immediate spheres of action, who are as ignorant as [those overseas], and that therefore we have work enough at home, without going into other countries. I readily grant that there are thousands in our own land as far from God as possible, and that this ought to excite us to ten-fold diligence in our work here.”

So he happily admits that we’ve got a lot of work to do at home. But, he goes on to say, there are some very important differences between non-Christians at home and those who live in completely unreached places:

“Our own countrymen have the means of grace [through gospel-preaching churches], and may attend on the word preached if they choose it. They have the means of knowing the truth, and faithful ministers are placed in almost every part of the land…. But with those overseas, the case is widely different, who have no Bible, no written language (which many of them have not), no ministers or churches… nor any of those advantages which we have…. This calls loudly for every possible exertion to introduce the gospel amongst them.”

What’s his point?

Yes, there are many people in our own countries who don’t know God. But look, if they decided one day to walk into a church, they have the freedom and ability to do so!

They have free access to a Bible they can understand, they can rock up to a church any Sunday, they have ample opportunity to hear the gospel if they so choose. But for many people in other parts of the world, this is not the case.

Some Things Don’t Change

And the sad fact is, this is just as true in our day as it was in Carey’s. Even today, there are hundreds of people groups who don’t have a single Christian in them, and whole languages that don’t have any access to the Bible.

So while we absolutely must be committed to evangelism and making disciples in our own nation – and Lord grant that we be more committed to that work – it’s still the case that the church must have a distinct priority in taking the gospel to unreached places.

A global missions priority.

Yes, the world has changed. But the need for sending missionaries is not one of those things that has changed with it. Lord haste the day when we won’t need to send a single missionary again, but that day is not here yet.

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3 thoughts on “The World Has Changed – Should We Still Be Sending Missionaries?

  1. All good points but also good to keep in mind that we can strategically reach many people groups wherever we are as a result of technologies in today’s day and age. It’s very important that people go and everyone should consider whether it is best to stay. But that doesn’t mean you do nothing if you stay right where you are. Never before has travel and international communication been quicker and cheaper. This not only means that we are better equipped to go, but we are also in an extremely blessed position right where we are in reaching those around the world. For example:
    – Get involved with international students at your uni and in your neighbourhood (e.g. volunteer at ESL classes) Most of these people already speak a language that would be extremely helpful to be able to explain the Bible in. They are able to take the gospel with them wherever they go and really increase your chances of encountering someone who’s never heard it before or had the opportunity. In explaining the gospel to people with a very different culture and context you can also really deepen and enrich your own understandings.
    – Get involved with the university’s muslim students’ association. I met a guy who is now the head of the Middle Eastern and North African sector of IFES and he became a christian through discussion with faithful christians at his university in France, during his last 4 months of living there. He has had an enormous impact on the muslim world. If you’re not a uni student then your life probably sucks but you can still do some good in the world. Show some genuine hospitality to your muslim neighbours, get to know them. I have even heard it suggested that perhaps God is using the refugee crisis to bring unreached people groups right to the mission field- right into countries where they can hear God’s truth and experience his love first hand.
    – Pray for those in other countries wherever you are. Support those who ARE overseas.

    Don’t think “I’m not going therefore missions doesn’t really concern me” WRONG. You’re useful where you are but also to many others around the world if you think strategically, live obediently, love faithfully and work diligently.

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