Missions Lesson 6
CALVARY Baptist CHURCH Instructor: J. VandenHurk
SCHOOL of the BIBLE Missions Lesson Six
- LESSON SIX: “PROBLEMS AND FAILURES IN MISSIONARY WORK”
- Leaving Their First Love
- Strong Churches are Made Up of Strong Individuals
- TAKING A LOOK AT THE CHURCHES OF TODAY
- Important areas of confusion:
- THE MODERN PRACTICE OF MISSIONS AND ITS PROBLEMS
- Churches Reproduce After Their Kind
- CONFUSED ABOUT BASIC CONCEPTS AND IDEAS
- CONFUSED ABOUT WHETHER THE N.T. PATTERN WORKS
- CONFUSED ABOUT GOD’S WORK AND MAN’S WORK
- CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT OUR MISSION REALLY IS
Missions Quote of the Week
– “The will of God – nothing less; nothing more; nothing else”
– F.E. Marsh
“PROBLEMS AND FAILURES
IN MISSIONARY WORK”
Why was the church not always as successful as they were in the first century?
Leaving Their First Love
As the years went by the Churches began to lose their great power and the fire that had burned brightly in the hearts of believers was being QUENCHED (1 Thess. 5:19). At the end of the first century the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the Church in the city of Ephesus and said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). The Lord also spoke to the Church in the city of Laodicea and He said, “thou art LUKEWARM” (Revelation 3:16).
What were some of the reasons for such a “cooling off” and for such a decline?
Consider the following:
In Philippians 1:14-18 the Apostle Paul speaks of certain people who were doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons. They were “preaching Christ” (Phil. 1:15-16) but they were doing this out of envy, strife and contention (Philippians 1:15-16). The message of these missionaries was good because they preached Christ. But their motive was terrible. They were not preaching to glorify God and to please Christ. They were preaching because they were jealous of the apostle Paul.
We need to be careful about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.
Remember, God not only looks at WHAT we do, but He also looks at WHY we do it! He knows all about the “thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The devil is delighted when Christians start fighting each other because he knows that they will have little time or energy left to fight evil and preach the gospel. Even in some of the early churches, there were problems with “family fighting”
(1 Cor. 1:10-12; 3:3; Gal. 5:15; Ephesians 4:30-32; Philippians 4:2; 3 John 9-10) Christians that cannot get along with each other will usually not be very powerful witnesses before the lost.
BEARING A FALSE MESSAGE
Even in the first century false teaching was entering some of the churches. This was especially true with the Galatian churches (see Galatians 1:6-9; 2:4; 3:1-3; 5:7-12). Satan does not mind fervent missionaries as long as they do not spread the truth. Today the cults send out thousands of missionaries throughout the world spreading different messages. The devil is well pleased. Jesus spoke about Satan’s missionaries in Matthew 23:15
LOVE FOR THE WORLD
Paul wrote about one of his former companions and said, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). Satan wants to corrupt the church from within.
He wants people to be “lovers of themselves more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4). He wants Christians to have less Bible and more entertaining (2 Timothy 4:3). He wants more play with the world and less prayer for them. Most of all he wants to corrupt the lives of believers so that they will live less and less like Christ and more and more like unsaved people. The more worldly the Church is, the less power it will have in the world. *We are sent “into the world, but not of the world.” (John 17:14,16,18)
The early church seemed to thrive under persecution. It was the “pressure from without” that propelled them out and moved them forward. What was it that made the early Christians go everywhere preaching the Word (see Acts 8:1-4)?
Nearly 300 years after the death of Christ the Romans (under Constantine) stopped persecuting the believers and Christianity became an “accepted” religion. Thousands of people who were not truly born again started calling themselves “Christians.” This was one of the worst things that ever happened to the Church. Instead of the Church reaching into the world with the gospel the world was reaching into the church and JOINING IT! The churches were fast becoming totally corrupt.
Strong Churches are Made Up of Strong Individuals
In the book of Acts, the churches were mostly united (in their doctrine, practices, customs, and organization). As the years went by the churches lost their united voice. The churches had become corrupt. If an unsaved person were to look at the churches of the world he would be utterly confused!
In such a corrupt setting, the answer is not to unite around bad doctrine. God’s answer is for individual people and churches to get back to the Bible. “And I sought for a man among them…but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30).
“Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now…if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth” (Jeremiah 5:1).
As we look down through the years of history, we do find certain INDIVIDUALS who broke out of the coldness and deadness of their day, and who had a fire in their hearts for the Lord.
In every age God has had individual men and women who have honoured Him and have broken away from the corruption that was all around them.
Today God is still looking for the Church to be what HE intended it to be and God is looking for individuals to be vessels fit for the Master’s use so that HIS LIFE might be expressed in us.
TAKING A LOOK AT THE CHURCHES OF TODAY
Let’s take a look at the churches that are in the world today and the churches that are in the town or city where you live.
There are many different kinds of churches. There are Bible churches. There are Baptist churches. There are Anglican and Catholic churches, and the list goes on.
Suppose you were able to climb aboard a “time machine” and go back to the days of the First Century (AD) in the time of Peter and Paul and the other early Christians. If you were to visit the different churches (in Jerusalem, in Ephesus, in Corinth, in Antioch, in Philippi, etc.), what would you find? Would these churches believe and teach the same thing? Would these churches all have the same practices and customs? Would you find great similarities or great differences between the churches? The early New Testament churches had the same teaching, the same practice, the same custom and the same order).
The 20th century churches are much different than the 1st century churches. WHAT HAS HAPPENED? WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?
God is not shocked and surprised by what has happened to the churches. God knows all about it and before it ever happened God said it would be so!
The Mustard Seed – Matthew 13:31-32.
This parable is talking about amazing growth (from a tiny seed to a great tree).
We must understand that a mustard plant is a herb or a bush. It is not usually “a tree” (Matthew 13:32). In Luke we learn that it became a “great tree” (Luke 13:19) and in Mark we learn that it had “big branches” (Mark 4:32). This kind of growth is abnormal, unusual, freakish and unnatural.
This is exactly what has happened during these last 19 centuries. Christianity had very small and simple beginnings. It began with 120 faithful disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit to come (Acts 1:15). At first the plant of Christianity grew strong and healthy. It was not long, however, before Satan went to work on the plant. Out of Christianity there grew up a monstrous religious system, which is exactly what we have today: a complicated and confusing religious MESS!
The Leaven – Matthew 13:33.
Leaven is something that penetrates and permeates and spreads. In the Bible the term “leaven” is used in a bad sense to describe that which corrupts and ruins
(Matthew 16:6,12; Luke 12:1; Mark 8:15; 1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). The Church started out with the simple truth of God. But Satan has injected his leaven and has successfully corrupted the churches. Today we find that “Christianity” has been corrupted by such things as unbelief, worldliness, immorality, hypocrisy and legalism. The churches have lost the simple truth that they once had.
The Simplicity That is In Christ
Notice the warning that is found in 2 Corinthians 11:3. The same devil who tricked Eve is alive and well on the earth today seeking to corrupt our minds.
|CHRIST His Truth and His Gospel|
¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯
Simple (not complicated or cluttered)–2 Cor. 11:3
Straight (not crooked or tangled) (Mt. 7:13-14)
Sufficient (enough; nothing added; all that we need) (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9)
Solid, Stable, Safe (you can stand on it without fear) (I Cor. 3:11)
Satisfying (John 6:35)
Sacred (it is holy and it is just the way God wanted it to be) (2 Tim. 3:15-16)
|COMPLICATED AND CORRUPT CHRISTIANITY:|
|THE DEVIL’S WORK|
¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯ ¯
to Corrupt (to ruin and wreck God’s simple truth) (2 Cor. 11:3) to Complicate
to Confuse (God is not the Author of confusion but the devil is–1 Cor. 14:33) to Clutter
to Create a MESS out of what was once beautiful and wonderful and sacred
Why are there so many different denominations?
1. This is due to the failures of man and not of God.
- Because of our ignorance. We do not know (Acts 18:24-26)
- Because of our incompetency. We do not study (2 Tim 2:15)
- Because of our ideology. We do not change when we are wrong (1 John 4:1)
- Because of our desire for power. Groups wanting control.
“We can either study the Bible with our minds made up or we can study the Bible to make up our minds.”
2. This is due to Satan’s discrediting and dividing Christians (2 Cor 2:11).
On a positive notes:
- Most evangelical denominations originally believed essentially the same fundamentals of the faith.
- Most evangelicals may have differences on some important issues but they are in agreement on many of the fundamentals of the faith – Salvation by Faith in Jesus Christ, the Blood Atonement of Christ, Eternal Security, the Verbal and Plenary Inspiration of the Bible, the belief in the Trinity, Special Creationism, the Literal Second Coming of Christ, etc.
- Interestingly, the multiplicity of denominations also reveals the love and tolerance in Christendom among the evangelicals.
Although many evangelicals may not necessarily work with one another at the church level, yet there is a common love and respect for each other as the children of God. (John 13:34-35 )
Important areas of confusion:
As we look at the churches of today here are some of the differences that we find:
- some sprinkle, some pour, some dip, some immerse
- some baptize babies, some do not baptize babies
- some do not baptize at all
- some think baptism saves – some think baptism washes away sin – etc.
The unsaved are confused. The people in the churches are confused. They all have their tangled up ideas about what baptism is and often they do not want to see what the Bible really says about it. Instead, he might say something like this: “I was baptized as a baby. If this kind of baptism was good enough for me then it must be good enough for others also. I’m glad to see that other babies are being baptized also. My church has always done it this way, so it must be right!”
The Lord’s Table
There is also much confusion about the Lord’s Table (or Communion).
- “TRANSUBSTANTIATION” – Roman Catholic teaching They believe that when a “priest” says certain words the bread and the wine are changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. They believe Christ is being sacrificed again and again every time there is a Communion service (“The Mass”) and you receive grace through the sacrament. This is an incorrect understanding of the once-forall, perfect sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:10-14).
- “CONSUBSTANTIATION” – the elements do not physically change to the actually body and blood of Christ, but some still believe that grace comes from partaking of the ritual.
- MEMORIAL ORDINANCE – even here there are differences between churches who believe it should be “open” / “closed” / “close.”
How should a church be organized? What leaders should a church have? The Bible speaks of two kinds of leaders or officers in the local church (Philippians 1:1): bishops and deacons [Note: The terms “bishop,” “elder,” and “pastor” are used to describe the same officer. See Titus 1:5-7 and 1 Timothy 3:1-2.]
- The Roman Catholic church has very high officials or leaders who are called
“CARDINALS” and their highest leader is called “THE POPE.” But the words “CARDINAL” and “POPE” are not even found in the Bible. The Catholic church also has a special group of men who are called “PRIESTS.”
- Some churches are led and controlled by certain men who are outside of the church. The individual churches are controlled by a powerful denomination. *The early churches were organized in a very simple way, but as we look at many modern churches we see that organization has become a very complicated thing.
The Lord Jesus Christ
- Some churches believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Creator of all things, the only Saviour of sinners and the final Judge of all men.
- Some churches say that Jesus Christ is not really God.
- They teach that He was the best man who ever lived, but no more than a man. – Some teach that the Lord Jesus was only a good teacher and a good example.
- Some churches do not even believe that Jesus Christ rose again bodily from the dead and they do not believe He will return to earth some day.
*Today it is possible to walk into 5 different churches and walk away with 5 different ideas about who Jesus Christ really is. The Bible warns about those who will come and preach “another Jesus whom we have not preached” (2 Cor. 11:4).
(see Matthew 16:13-15; Matthew 24:23-24).
- There are churches that believe that the Bible is true and without error.
- There are other churches that believe that the Bible is filled with errors and contradictions and mistakes.
- There are churches that believe the book of Genesis contains nice stories (such as Adam and Eve and the great flood, etc.) but these things never happened.
- The churches of today are even confused as to which books belong in the Bible. The Roman Catholic church has added several “extra” books. If you were to open a Catholic Bible you would see books such as Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, etc. (Revelation 22:18-19)
- A CREED is a written statement of what a person, church or group believes.
Many churches recite the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday.
- The real problem is that many people stop at creeds and they go no further. They should go back to the Bible which is the book the creeds are supposed to be based on. Many people stand on creeds instead of standing on Christ and the Bible. Instead of the Bible being the authority for what we believe, the creed becomes the authority. To find the truth you should not search through the creeds of men but you should “search the Scriptures.”
Back to the Bible!!
It is not easy to untangle a messed up line (fishing line). It takes much patience and hard work to get that line back to the way it was in the beginning before it got tangled. In the same way it is not easy to get untangled from the MESS of CHURCHIANITY and to get back to the simplicity of God’s Word. But thankfully, there is an original example of what it should look like (Illustration of a Rubik’s Cube).
God wants the church to look just like it did at the beginning. God wants the churches of today to go back to the Bible and find out what a church is and what a church should be doing. God started the church so that it was very RIGHT and very STRAIGHT, but we have messed it up.
THE MODERN PRACTICE OF MISSIONS AND ITS PROBLEMS
Missionaries are generally sent forth from churches.
Churches Reproduce After Their Kind
Tangles in the churches at home will produce tangles on the foreign fields. When Baptist and Congregational and Catholic and Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries go forth, what kind of churches do you think they will reproduce on the mission field? Every missionary carries with him certain ideas and practices and ways of doing things. The missionary’s job is to preach the gospel and to plant churches in areas where there are no churches.
We should remember that when Paul was sent out on his first missionary journey, he was sent forth from a very strong church (Acts 13:1-3).
- The church at Antioch was a praying church (Acts 13:2-3).
- It was a Bible teaching church (Acts 11:26; 13:1).
- It was an evangelistic church where the gospel went forth and people were being saved (Acts 11:24).
- It was a church that was known for its CHRISTIANITY (Acts 11:26)
CONFUSED ABOUT BASIC CONCEPTS AND IDEAS
A true missionary must have a correct concept of the Gospel message:
- Man is needy. He needs salvation.
- Man is lost (Romans 3:10-23).
- Man is perishing in sin (1 Corinthians 1:18).
- Man cannot save himself (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- God can meet the need of man (Hebrews 7:25).
- Only God can meet the need of man (Acts 4:12).
- There is no other Saviour apart from God (Isaiah 45:21-22).
- Apart from God’s grace, man is doomed (2 Timothy 1:9).
These are simple facts that every missionary should know backwards and forwards.
Some are confused so they ask the question, “Can people be saved without hearing the gospel? Can a person be saved if he has never heard about Jesus?” As they get more confused they might say, “It is nice to go to the heathen with the gospel but it is not essential. They can be saved without a preacher. If they have never heard about Jesus then God will not judge them too severely.” Is this really true?
- Is a preacher essential or not essential (see Romans 10:13-14)?
- Can a person be saved apart from the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12)?
Some are confused so they ask the question, “Will God give people a second chance after death?” If this were really true then missionaries would not be so essential because people would always have a second chance.
- Does God really give people a “second chance” (see Hebrews 9:27)?
Some are confused so they ask the question, “Will all people eventually be saved some day?” So it is not really necessary to send out missionaries preaching salvation? – Are all people walking down the road to salvation (Matthew 7:13-14)?
Some are confused so they ask the question, “Is there really a hell? Is there really such a thing as eternal punishment? Would a loving God really condemn people who reject His
Son? Would God really condemn people who have never heard about His Son?” – Does the Bible teach that there is a real hell (Mark 9:43-48)?
- Does the Bible teach eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41,46)?
- ETERNAL JUDGMENT is one of the “first principles” or one of the “A,B,C’s” that every believer should know and not be confused about (see Hebrews 5:11,12; 6:1-2).
CONFUSED ABOUT WHETHER THE N.T. PATTERN WORKS
The problem we face today is this: There are many people who do not believe that the New Testament pattern would really work today. They might say: It worked well back then in the days of Paul but it would never work today. They somehow feel that New Testament methods and practices have become out-dated and that more “modern” methods are needed for today. As a result much of the New Testament is ignored and God’s perfect blueprint for missions is not followed. They somehow feel that man’s tangled up ways are much better than God’s untangled and simple ways!
God’s Simple Program of Missions
God’s program for missions can be described by 8 simple words:
- PRAYER–the early church was a praying church and prayer is the very heart-beat of missions (compare Matthew 9:36-38). The first missionary journey was bathed in prayer (Acts 13:2-3).
- POWER–The power of the Holy Spirit is the dynamite of missions (Acts 1:8; 4:33; 6:8; 10:38; Rom. 1:16). Man’s programs and methods are never a substitute for the power of God.
- PREACHING–preaching the Word of God was the very backbone of missions (Acts
4:2; 8:5; 8:25; 8:35; 13:5; 14:7; etc.).
- PRACTICE–The early Christians not only preached the Word but they practiced it. They were DOERS OF THE WORD (James 1:22). They not only preached the gospel, they lived the gospel.
- PLANTING–The early missionaries, such as Paul, spent their time and energy in planting local churches. Paul did this in Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica and in many other cities. The local church is at the very center of God’s program for missions.
- PERFECTING–The believers in local churches must be perfected (equipped) so that they might be able to minister and serve the Lord (Ephesians 4:12). The local churches must be Bible teaching centers so that believers might be strong in the Word of God (Acts 20:27,28,32). Instead of the pastor or missionary doing all the work there is a whole trained army of believers who are spiritually healthy and equipped and able to serve the Lord.
- PERSECUTION–God’s true missionaries have never been popular with the world. In 1 John 3:13 we read, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” We find God’s missionaries facing persecution in almost every chapter of the book of Acts.
- PROCLAMATION–Persecution did not stop the message from going forth and
being proclaimed. Instead, “they that were scattered abroad (by persecution) went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
CONFUSED ABOUT GOD’S WORK AND MAN’S WORK
There has always seemed to be confusion concerning GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (what God chooses to do) and MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY (what man is responsible to do). The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign and that man is responsible, but down through the centuries people have taken these two ideas and have really gotten them tangled up:
1. SOME EMPHASIZE SOVEREIGNTY AND FORGET RESPONSIBILITY.
Many have fallen into this error. In Chapter 8 this was illustrated by Dr. Ryland’s speech to William Carey: Young men, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen He will do it without your aid or mine! This man wrongly thought that God must do it all and man must do nothing. It is true
that God is the One that must save and God is the only One who can save. But God will only save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).
People cannot believe unless they hear the gospel message, and therefore God saves those who believe by “the foolishness of preaching.” Thus we see the responsibility of believing men (which is what Dr. Ryland failed to see). Those who are unsaved are responsible to BELIEVE and those that are saved are responsible to PREACH. God’s responsibility is to SAVE! Man must do the believing; God must do the saving.
2. SOME EMPHASIZE RESPONSIBILITY AND FORGET SOVEREIGNTY.
This is another great error men fall into. The first error was to say that God will do it without man’s help. This second error is to say that man will do it without God’s help. Thus we have men running around with all kinds of gimmicks and programs trying to get men saved, instead of seeking to do it in God’s way and in God’s time using God’s methods and with God’s help. If God does not do it, all of our labor is in VAIN (see Psalm 127:1).
CONFUSED ABOUT WHAT OUR MISSION REALLY IS
Why do missionaries go into the world? What is their real mission? What are they supposed to be doing? Here are some of the ideas that people have:
- “I’m going into all the world to make the world a better place to live.”
- “I’m going into all the world to improve society.”
- “I’m going into all the world to clean-up society.”
- “I’m going into all the world to change the world.”
- “I’m going into all the world to educate people so they can live better lives.”
- “I’m going into all the world to provide food for the poor and medicine for the sick and clothes for the naked.”
- “I’m going into all the world to help people to love neighbors and to do good.”
We must not forget why the Lord Jesus Christ has sent us into the world. He has told us to go into all the world and what are we to do (Mark 16:15)?
The Lord has never told us to go and SAVE THE WORLD or CHANGE THE WORLD. God’s current plan is not to save this world. Instead God’s plan in this dispensation is to reach down and save INDIVIDUALS out of this evil world (Galatians
1:4; Colossians 1:13; John 15:19; John 17:14). (Illustration: Titanic)
A missionary must have a right concept and understanding of God’s Word, the Bible.
The Bible is the missionary’s most important tool and this tool must be used properly. Illustration of Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965), the famous philanthropist missionary, but who wrote The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Here was a man who did much good in the world, but he was also a man who did not believe the Word of God. We can be sure that Albert Schweitzer never preached the true gospel to the African natives, and because of this he cannot be considered a true missionary of God. Because he failed to tell them the true Bible message of salvation, we must say that this man helped the Africans FOR A
MOMENT but he hurt them FOR ETERNITY.
The same is true with poor and needy people anywhere. We can feed their stomachs and provide medical care for their bodies. We can put them in better homes and clothe them with better clothes. However, if we never give them the message of the Bible, then what have we really done for them? Someday they will die and enter into eternity WITHOUT CHRIST.
We have not really helped them or taken care of their greatest need.