Pastoral Perspectives

Missions and You

In the account of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), a Jewish expert of the Old Testament Mosaic law, in a bid to test Jesus, asked Jesus what he would need to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus reminded the scribe of the two well-known commandments in the Old testament – to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). The scribe, likely a person who had been religious in the observing of the Mosaic law, asked Jesus a second question in order “to justify himself” (Luke 10:29). He probably was expecting Jesus to give certain type of answers that would allow him to “show-off” his righteousness and good works. However, Jesus did not respond as expected. Instead, Jesus told a story where a priest and a Levite, representatives of the pious Jews of that time, failed to help a man who had been attacked by robbers and who was very much in need of their help. They probably did not help because it would inconvenience them. Then came the anti-hero, a Samaritan who went all out to help the man. “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man?” Jesus asked the scribe. The scribe rightly replied that it was the Samaritan, as he had shown mercy to the man, to which Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”

In his book “Understanding Christian Mission – Participation in Suffering and Glory”, Scott Sunquist wrote, “[an] important lesson we have learned is that the mission of God is more diverse than we can ever imagine. We can study the variety of approaches and institutional structures for the rest of our lives and still not know all of the great variety of ways God’s mission has been carried forward… In this great diversity, we should remember not to hold too tightly to a single approach or even a few approaches. We must return again and again to our basic theology of mission …”. If a definition of the basic theology of mission is required, it could be that God has blessed us in order for us to be a blessing to other, primarily by being an ambassador of the gospel. If we imagine we are now in a similar conversation with Jesus, and we asked Jesus a barrage of questions, “Why should a Christian bother about missions? What are the right things a Christian must do for missions? What are the obligations expected of a Christian for missions? What is enough for ……”. Jesus might not answer any of our questions and might instead say, “What is an activity related to missions that you are already aware of? Go and do it.”

In the rest of this article, I like to suggest a few activities for our consideration. Firstly, I want to encourage all of us to pray regularly for missions. An encouraging reference in the history of church for us is the Moravian 100 years of prayer that fueled a strong missionary movement in the 18th century. It occurred in Germany and was started by Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf. Zinzendorf was a devout Christian from young and on a day in 1722, when he was 22, a refugee from Moravia (now part of the modern-day Czech Republic) came to his estate to seek refuge. The refugee came as he had heard that Zinzendorf would open his home to oppressed Moravian refugees. With that a continuous stream of Moravian refugees began arriving, and in four years, the population of the Moravian community swelled to 300. In 1727 a revival broke out in the community and a spirit of prayer began to spread. The Moravians started a round-the-clock “prayer watch” that continued nonstop for over a hundred years. Every day 24 men and 24 women would come together to pray in intervals of one hour each throughout the entire day. The Moravians prayed continuously for revival and for missions, and within a short time, the community became a missionary launching pad under Zinzendorf’s leadership. By the time Zinzendorf died in 1760, the Moravians had sent out 226 missionaries and entered 10 different countries, ministering to over 6,000 people.

I hope the Moravians’ prayer movement will be a strong encouragement to all of us to want to persevere in prayer. If you are not sure how you can pray for missions, you can start by using the monthly prayer guide for SQ, the monthly prayer for the world insert, and the prayer calendar for the Outreach Pillar. These are all distributed along with the Sunday worship bulletin. For praying more specifically for unreached people groups, I have found the Prayer Resources section of the website of the missions agency OMF helpful. There are detailed and informative prayer guides for the unreached people groups in East Asia in the website.

The second activity I would like to encourage us to do is to continue to spend time in the studying of God’s word and to get ourselves well grounded in God’s word, especially with regard to the gospel. Since the most important work to be done in missions is to bring the gospel to others, our involvement in missions must be properly and correctly informed, shaped and evaluated by the gospel and not merely by our feelings. It is not that activities such as helping the poor, the sick and the marginalized in the society, or providing disaster relief and developmental assistance to communities in need are in themselves not worthy or noble causes. However, we need to always remember that the gospel is at the heart of God’s plan for missions. If we take away the gospel, regardless of the good that we may be doing, the work that is done is simply not missions as God has intended it to be. The word of God is also important since real missions work needs to influence and transform lives for the kingdom of God, and thus there will be always be tough questions to be grappled with. For example, in the story of the good Samaritan, what if there is a part-two where the Samaritan would encounter a different man who is in need every week, and as is often the case in real life, all that the Samaritan can do, even if he is giving his best and all, may simply be never enough. There are many tough questions if we are taking missions seriously, and all of them must be examined in the light of the gospel. This can be done only with reliance on the wisdom and guidance of God’s word and the Holy Spirit in order for us to come up with practical solutions that are God honouring and will convict us to persevere for the long haul. If not, we likely are driven by human emotions or worldly logic, and we are like the foolish man building the house on the sand.

Lastly, if we have the opportunity and are able to, it is good for us to participate in a short-term missions exploration trip. Throughout the year, there are several such trips organised by the church to various countries such as SQ and Thailand, with each trip usually lasting up to a week long. One benefit of going on such trips is that we will gain a better appreciation of what it is like to be in the destination country and understand better the challenges faced by the missionaries, the local people and the believers. By coming into contact with the local people, it will help us to develop a real love for them, and have a more concrete desire to want to see them to come to know Christ, for they are our neigbours.

Prayer Resources

Into All the World: Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian Missionary Movement

Daniel Lim (Chairman, Missions Committee)

September 23, 2018