Summary: Why are missions so important?
OPEN: A Jewish father was concerned about his son, who was about a year away from his Bar Mitzvah but was sorely lacking in his knowledge of the Jewish faith. To remedy this he sent his son to Israel to experience his heritage.
A year later the young man returned home. "Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers. It was wonderful however, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity."
"Oy vegh, what have I done?" said the father
So in the tradition of the Patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought his advice and solace.
His friend sadly shook his head - "It is amazing that you should come to me. I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian."
So in the traditions of the Patriarchs they went to the Rabbi. And the Rabbi wept, "It is amazing that you should come to me. I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons? Brothers, we must take this to the Lord.”
They fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty.
As they prayed, the clouds above opened and a mighty voice stated,
"Amazing that you should come to Me. (pause for effect) I, too, sent My Son to Israel..."
QUOTE: David Livingstone noted: “God had an only Son and he made him a missionary.”
APPLY: Here in today’s text we read that when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven He had a plan.
And this was the plan:
1. I will give you power thru the Holy Spirit
2. This will give you the power to be my witnesses
3. And here is where you’ll witness:
“…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth." Ac 1:8
That was the battle plan
1st they were to witness to their immediate circle – people in Jerusalem
2nd they were to go outside that circle to witness to people in the surrounding areas.
and 3rd they were to witness to the very ends of the earth.
And the battle plan hasn’t changed in the past 2000 years and it is still our call to arms.
1. To witness to those in our inner circle
2. Then to witness to anyone outside that circle
But that last group (the ends of the earth) is the one we’re going to talk about today.
This last group is what we call missions.
The first two kinds of witnessing we can usually do ourselves… and God expects it of us. But we have missions because - that way - we can support full time workers who bring people to Christ in areas we may never get to.
Among the earliest missionaries were men like Paul, Luke, Silas, Barnabas and Timothy.
Sometimes, like Paul, early missionaries supported themselves with something we now call “tent making” essentially working at a trade so that they could afford freely go spread the gospel anywhere as Paul did when he made tents on the side.
Others early missionaries were supported by local churches. Their job was to go out and start new congregations, train workers to keep the new church going, and then move on to the next community to begin another new work.
That is what God has commanded us to do… that IS our mission as a church of Christ.
Now, not every denomination understands this:
ILLUS: Newsweek Magazine did an interview with the head of one of the major denominations in America, and they asked
Q - What will be your focus as head of the U.S. Church?
A – “Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.”
(10 Questions For Katherine Jefferts Schori – Presiding Bishop-elect for the Episcopalian Church of the U.S.A. - I apologize for not knowing the exact publication date of the magazine)
Notice there was no mention of Christ and His great commission in that answer. All those things that were mentioned by that major denominational leader were worthy goals. But when you compare those goals with God’s mission for us they look almost sickly – and I’ll tell you why.
ILLUS: Back in the 80’s I read the following remarks by another preacher:
“ I couldn’t believe what I had read. The price to kill an enemy soldier in World War II was.....$200,000. In more recent times the price to destroy a life in Vietnam was a staggering $500,000.
In contrast with these astounding figures the average cost to save a soul overseas through evangelism was only $654. Even though we can never put a price tag on the life of an individual these figures should make us stop and think… and weep.