Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 26, 1950
NUMBER 37, PAGE 2,5b

So You Want To Be A Missionary?

Thomas N. Page

(Editors Note: This article, appearing originally in the Gospel Advocate, deserves a very careful reading.)

The writer of this article has an axe to grind. It would be folly for him to deny this, since the following observations will more than declare this to be true. Perhaps some will go so far as to say that envy had its part also in the writing of this article. This the writer would like to deny, although he could be mistaken.

Whatever his motives may be, he claims the right to express himself on this subject. Having been a "missionary during his entire preaching career (?), although he has never left the United States, his observations have given rise to a few convictions and prejudices.

Now, before anyone reaches for a typewriter in objection to the use of the term "missionary," let us look at the word for a moment. A "missionary" is one who is sent on a mission, usually of a religious nature. The word of itself does not imply sea voyages, dark continents, pagodas, or strange languages. It does imply, however, that someone has gone some place on a "mission," be it far or near.

A gospel missionary is one "who is sent"; and where ever he finds souls to convert, he very definitely is laboring in a "mission field," whether it be in Tennessee, Texas, or Timbuktu.

Let us face it. Any place, regardless of geographical located is a "mission field," if there remains any souls who have not heard and obeyed the gospel.

In the last ten years the church has made remarkable progress in foreign mission work. The glowing reports from the four corners of the earth have filled our hearts with boastful pride, and the results of "world tours" and "surveys" have challenged young and old alike to find a "mission field," with the financial support of some American church, of course. It seems, sometimes, the farther away the field, the greater the enthusiasm, both among those that are going, and among those that are doing the sending. At the rate we are progressing it will not be long until we have "representative missionaries" in nearly every continent.

From the papers I observe that it is no longer necessary for a worker to go alone. He is joined in his chosen field by a group of zealous pilgrims, all eager to endure the hardships of a long sea or air voyage, and to spend their lives (or part of them) in a land that is new and strange. The enthusiasm is catching, and has led even some of our more prominent preachers to leave their comfortable pulpits for new and untried fields.

A visit to some of "our" colleges is a revealing experience. Here "mission study groups", with the advocates of foreign fields too numerous to mention, fill the hours with plans and hopes for a missionary's life, to begin in some far away place immediately after graduation.

This same enthusiasm for foreign fields is more and more growing among our "big" churches. Many are taking the lead in sponsoring groups of workers, while still others are engaged in "surveys" to aid them in the selection of a field. And thus with the blowing of trumpets and the roll of the drum, new projects are being launched almost weekly.

That the above statements are true, all will agree. Comes now the revolution. I believe that it is necessary that I take issue with some of our "experts" in mission work, whether they may be in Europe, Asia, or America. It is evident that the present emphasis on foreign mission fields has been, and is, developing at the expense of new fields in America. With the tremendous interest in foreign fields there has been a noticeable decline in corresponding fields in America. Particularly is this true in the Northeastern states. Actually there are fewer full-time preachers in this, the most densely populated area in the country, than there were five years ago. As a matter of fact, some places where new works were begun have either been abandoned, or greatly weakened by the loss of a full-time worker. As an example six preachers have left New England for other areas, including foreign fields. There remain seven in this six-state area of nine million people. Membership of the church? It is doubtful if the active membership exceeds three hundred.

What can be said of the Northeast can probably be said of other destitute fields in the United States. In some instances men are leaving such places to join a corps of workers in Germany, Africa, and Japan. For the sake of the record, let us make a few interesting comparisons.

Tokyo, Japan and Philadelphia, Pa. are cities of comparable size. Both have a population in excess of two million. In Tokyo there is a corps of workers numbering more than six, and a membership of several hundred, Philadelphia has one evangelist and an active membership of not more than one hundred.

New York City has a population of over seven million, Today there are but two men fully supported in the entire metropolitan district. As the capital of the United Nations, it is perhaps the most important city in the world. Compare this with the situation in Frankfurt, Germany, a city of four hundred thousands, when there are at least twelve fully supported workers and present membership of five hundred. How many members in New York City ? Not over three hundred.

Zurich, Switzerland, has a population of two hundred thousand. Here there are three fully supported workers. In the metropolitan area of Boston, Mass., with more than two million population, with three struggling congregations, at this writing, there is not one gospel preacher devoting his full time to the work. Boston has less than one hundred active members in the church.

In New Hampshire, there is but one congregation. Located in Manchester, it meets in an ugly little store building, not much bigger than a tool shed. Until a few months ago they had a preacher who was partly supported by his home congregation in Texas. The church in Texas was not "financially" able to completely support him in this field, so he undertook secular work in order to remain with the church. He has since left Manchester, so now there is no fully supported preacher in the state of New Hampshire. Yet a recent issue of one of "our" papers reports that this same congregation in Texas has assumed the entire support of another preacher, and has sent him and his family to South Africa.

I assume there is considerably more inducement for preachers and churches to do work in foreign fields than in comparable fields in our own country. After all, how can anyone become alarmed over the spiritual condition of the people in New England or other Eastern Seaboard states. The people here, for the most part, are not heathens. They speak our language, and have our customs. In other words, they are just about like the rest of us, except they are lost and know nothing about the New Testament Church. And so when a new mission field is considered, these millions of souls are overlooked in the shuffle of expensive boat trips and colonizing projects in foreign fields.

Yes, brethren, let us admit it. Our zeal for lost souls is sometimes measured in the distance that men travel How does the song go? "Faraway places and strange sounding names." Yes, that is it exactly. We can not see the forest for the trees. The greatest concentration of people in the United States, the Northeast, has heard less gospel preaching, has fewer churches, and still fewer decent places of meeting than in some foreign places about which there has been so much publicity in recent days. Yes, men are willing to compass seven seas to save a soul, some passing through of teeming millions of lost souls, never to be saved, with perhaps little, or no thought for their destiny.

So you want to be a missionary? According to one of our "experts" now serving in foreign fields, he has finally resolved a plan for converting the Jews to Christ. How is this monumental task to be done? Very simple. Just send a crew of gospel preachers and families to Jerusalem, Palestine. Under no circumstances should one make the mistake of going alone. This would never do. But wait a minute before you decide what you want to be among that number who are going to the "Holy City," for our "expert" gives forth another requirement. It is wise, he says, if those who come looked like Jews. (Emphasis mine. —T. N. P.) Now we have seen everything. The wisdom of the ages reaches its crucial climax in this oracle's pronouncement. Brethren, for nearly two thousand years we have been deprived of this knowledge, and thus millions of Jews have been lost. But a new day has dawned, the "millennium" is here, and the Jews will be saved! Where are you, my brethren "who look like Jews?" Go at once and join forces with others like yourselves in this modern-day crusade to the land of the Arab and the Jews. Never mind waiting until you learn the Hebrew tongue, for our sage speaks again. Hear him.

"Those who are interested in coming...should not wait to learn the language before they come. Here is the place to learn the language while you are learning the people."

Now that we have learned to reach the Jews with the gospel, why not undertake a Jewish "mission" in this country? But where, you ask? Hold on to your hats, for here are the facts: There are more Jews living within the limits of New York City than there are in Palestine. There are more Jews in Boston, Mass. than in Jerusalem. In fact, there are fewer Jews in Palestine than in any principal country on earth. Yes, I suppose there are more Jews in Texas than you will find in the "Holy City."

It is nice to have a project, and every body get a field and go there; but let us keep our thinking clear. If colonizing the Holy Land with gospel preachers will convert the Jews in Palestine, then it should also work in other places. So why not begin at home among our Jewish neighbors? This may not be so glamorous as going to Jerusalem, but it will be a lot less expensive.

So you want to be a missionary? All right, then prove that your interest is in souls rather than in places. The next door neighbor may never obey the gospel unless you teach him. That son or daughter, husband or wife, may never become a Christian if you fail in your responsibility to teach them the truth. Show me the man who is interested in souls "at home" and I will show you the man to send into the "field."

Perhaps, gentle reader, you may wonder where this writer's "tub of butter" is situated. Well, I am located in the great state of Massachusetts, and have the distinction of being one of the two fully-supported men in the state. Now since we have so many workers among the six millions in Massachusetts, perhaps it is time for me to seek another field. If you have any suggestions just drop me a line in care of P. 0. Box 336 Worchester 1, Mass.