Friday, July 3, 2009

Global Missions: God's Passion.

I recently subscribed to a magazine called "Mission Frontiers". It is a publication of the U.S. Center for World Mission, and organization founded by the late Ralph Winter in 1976. It is a magazine that carries Winter's vision of sending missionaries to the "unreached people-groups" (a term coined by Winter). The latest publication, the May-August edition, is a tribute to Winter that includes a short biography, testimonials of his family and friends, and articles about how Winter impacted lives.

One of the articles was written by Tom Steller, the pastor of leadership development at Bethlehem Baptist Church (where John Piper is the senior pastor). This article had a special impact on me. Here are some excerpts:

"...During the summer of 1983 both John Piper and I were confronted with the 'statistics of missions' as outlined in the Hidden Peoples Pie Chart. We were thinking of adding another full-time pastor to our staff when a young couple from Bethlehem sent us a letter challenging this decision. They wrote in the letter, 'How can you justify adding another full-time Christian worker in a church that already has two in a city that has a thousand churches?' Then they proceeded to lay out the statistics of missions and encouraged us to consider that when the Bible used the word "nations" it doesn't mean countries, but ethno-linguistic groupings of people. This pesky letter was part of what God used to wake up John Piper and me to the reality that is we love the glory of God we will not be content until His glory in the face of His Son has been proclaimed to all the nations and worshippers have been won from every tribe and tongue and people.'"

This is back when John Piper's church was new and small. And to me, it demonstrates how and outward focus on missions has an inward benefit of growth. Instead of building up their staff as their budget allowed, they did something that might look foolish in the business world (or the modern church world). They put the money toward a full-time missionary. One might think that the money would have been better spent on someone who would be working in the church. I'm beginning to believe that God's desire is that every church be a beacon to the nations. And when the church has that correct focus, God blesses tremendously. Bethlehem Baptist has been dedicated to foreign missions for almost thirty years now, supporting 80+ full-time missionaries. It was Ralph Winter who said, "The success of a church should not be measured by its seating capacity but by its sending capacity."

No comments: