Vol.VIII No.IV Pg.5
June 1971

Missing Our Mission

Robert F. Turner

The word means, basically, a sending forth, and the mission of the church is to do what it is sent forth to do — its assigned work. A missionary would be one who is sent forth — the word apostle being about as close as any greek derived term. Apostle is used in a special sense (the twelve) and in a more general sense in the N.T. (See apostle in Vines Expository Dictionary.)

No doubt this is the origin of the application of the word to men sent into foreign countries to preach the word. But a strange metamorphosis has taken place. Sent to preach Christ, and cause people to obey the commands of the gospel for the remission of their sins, a missionary was still a Christian in all his relationships of life, and showed his concern for social, civic, economic, and ocher problems of those whom he sought to teach. He sought to help the less fortunate in these fields — incidentally — subordinate to his mission, although having its own importance.

Gradually the incidental and subordinate grew in importance. Backward countries encouraged "missionaries who would teach school, operate hospitals, teach agriculture; and this opened doors that had been closed to gospel preachers. Opened them for schools, etc., NOT for preaching. Now the preaching had to be done On the side — incidentally and subordinate to the secular functions.

And as the social gospel concept grew, and even in the States became the dominate characteristic of local church work, it became commonplace to think of a missionary as one who supervised a compound or station for secular education, medical treatment, etc. He had to be well qualified for this. His ability to preach the gospel was of little importance — he did little or none of it anyhow.

Recently I noticed a report in the Christian Chronicle regarding one of our (liberal) missionaries. Quote: In 1961 he went to Africa as a missionary. He taught school and sponsored a Boy Scout troop that excelled in trailing and tracking... From July 1967 to August 1969, — was in Nazareth, Israel, as a minister. He served as superintendent of Galilee Christian High School, an accredited high school open to all religions and nationalities ... He did a detailed study of Biblical places and took hundreds of slides and became quite proficient as a guide of the Holy Lands. I know little about the man, but I know that whoever wrote that report pictured that man as anything but one sent to save mens souls.

The apostle Paul went (1) to turn souls to Christ, and (2) to strengthen and confirm the disciples. Whatever else he did (and I do not doubt his well - rounded interest) it was of such secondary importance as to call for little or no mention. He was a queer missionary indeed, by todays standards.

Failure to put spiritual matters first in our dealing with others, is a pretty good indication they are not first in our own life. Isnt it time we go where and for what we are sent?