Are we as a denomination faithful to the great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to all nations? What a glorious and wonderful commission that is! It is through the preaching of the gospel that the Lord is pleased to gather and defend and preserve His church in all ages and all places. It is through the preaching of the gospel that men are called from darkness into the marvelous light of everlasting salvation. Above all it is through the preaching of the gospel that the glorious praises of the Lord our God are declared throughout the earth. Surely if we are truly a Reformed church that seeks the glory of God in all things we will be greatly concerned about being faithful to the great commission.
With the above question we want to address ourselves specifically to the matter of the preaching of the gospel on the mission field. It is certainly true that the great commission, properly understood, involves all the work of the preaching of the gospel. It includes the preaching that is done from Lords Day to Lord’s Day in our established churches. It includes all the labors which the church performs to defend and preserve the truth of God. The Lord has blessed our churches with faithfulness in many aspects of the fulfillment of the great commission in our midst. We praise His name for this. We want now however to address specifically the calling that we as churches have to preach the gospel outside of our own communion to people other than the members of our church, whether in our own country or in other lands. In order to be faithful to the great commission of the Lord we must always be diligently and zealously preaching the gospel outside of our own churches. It is through this means that the Lord adds to His church also from without such as must be saved.
Let us stand back and take a look at the efforts of our denomination. We are a small denomination. Our resources are very limited. We cannot be compared with the large denominations that are able to sponsor hundreds of missionaries. The Lord does not require this of us either. The fulfilling of the great commission is done by the church through all ages and in all places. We are surely not alone in this great task and calling. The Lord has given us a small name and place in the church world and in His kingdom. According to that place we must labor faithfully. But consider that presently our churches have only one active home mission field and one active foreign mission field. It is difficult to make valid comparisons with other denominations. Surely we as churches do many things as a denomination by the grace of God which normally are done by much larger denominations, such as support our own Seminary and our own Christian schools. Taking all of this into account however, should we not and could we not be doing much more in the area of missions? I believe we should.
We thank the Lord for His blessings upon the work of our churches here in Singapore. This ought to be of great encouragement for our churches that the Lord would use us in such a wonderful way. Surely the Lord does not need men for the gathering of His church. The work of missions is not dependent upon the great efforts and achievements of men. The Lord sovereignly gathers His church. That He should even use us as churches we must count as a great honor and blessing. If a church does not prove faithful in the work of missions, then the Lord will raise up another. We have seen how the Lord has been pleased to use us here in Singapore. We rejoice greatly in this. But this also should spur us on to get more involved in the work of missions than we have in the history of our denomination. We must move on to greater faithfulness and devotion unto our Lord. We ought to be ready to spend and be spent for the cause of the preaching of the gospel also to others. We ought to be ready to make great sacrifices and offerings of ourselves. We ought to labor to the absolutely full extent of our resources and ability. In light of the small mission program that we have I believe that we have not yet done that.
That the need for doing mission work is urgent is obvious. The words of our Lord that the harvest is truly plenteous but the laborers are few is certainly true today. It is true that the great sign of the ages, the sign of the preaching of the gospel unto all nations, the great sign of the imminent return of our Lord, is evident as never before in the history of the world. Yet it is also true that as long as our Lord tarries His church must continue faithfully to carry out His great commission. There are still places where the gospel must be preached. There are still those who are ordained unto eternal life that must be saved. Surely, if we diligently look over the world and even our own country, how many places there are where the gospel must be preached. Even in the Far East alone where we are laboring there are many areas that could be investigated. There are still places where the gospel has never been preached and people who have never before heard the gospel. The Far East alone would be a far larger field of labor than our churches could possibly serve. Let us not say that we need not do missions because all have already heard the gospel and there are no mission fields where we can send missionaries. Consider that in many places where the gospel has been preached, the gospel which has been preached is very corrupted and even false. The Lord in His wonderful providence has given to our churches the blessed and glorious Reformed Faith which we are convinced is the true gospel, the gospel of salvation by the sovereign grace and mercy of the Lord alone. Consider how few places in the world have heard such a gospel. Consider that in many places the gospel of humanism and socialism and Arminianism, which is no gospel at all, has been preached. As apostasy increases, there are fewer and fewer churches who hold to and preach the true gospel. If the Lord in His grace has preserved the truth in our midst, is there not an ever increasing urgency that we preach this gospel, also outside of our churches to others and even unto all places where the Lord will send us? Woe unto us if we are complacent and careless in the face of this great urgency. Woe unto us if we care only about our own salvation and our own churches and will not declare the glorious gospel which the Lord has given to us unto all the world.
The Lord has also given us in recent years objective reason to look towards fields of labor outside of our own churches. In the past we have had to struggle with doctrinal heresies both within and without our denomination. We have had to spend much of our resources in doing this. The Lord in His grace has in the process of this struggle made us a strong church doctrinally and united us together upon the true Reformed Faith. Though there will never come a time when we will be able to lay down the weapons of our warfare and no longer need to be on guard against false doctrine, at least not in the history of this present world, yet when we have peace in our own midst we are able to use our resources for the preaching of the gospel on the mission field. Furthermore, we can take advantage of our unity and doctrinal strength to do the work of missions. We ought to be earnestly desirous to communicate all that the Lord has given to us also to others. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of our denomination we have now enough ministers to fill all of our own pulpits. This is a wonderful blessing of the Lord. But this ought not to be an occasion for us to rest at ease and call and support no more preachers of the gospel. In the past we were hampered in our ability to send out missionaries because of the shortage of ordained men. Now for the first time we have enough men to send out. What reason to expand significantly our mission endeavors!
There are a number of things that must be true of our churches in order to expand the work of missions in our midst. First of all, we must be a truly mission-minded church. By that I do not mean that we must neglect all of our other calling as churches and give everything so to speak to missions, as some churches foolishly do. Missions is not the only calling of the church, though it is a very important calling. We must as churches become truly zealous and earnest for the work of missions, both in our local congregations and abroad. We must make the work of missions the great burden of our prayers continually. We must have a great desire in our midst that others besides our own numbers come to hear of the glorious and blessed gospel of salvation. As imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ we must be filled with compassion for the lost souls of men, willing even to lay down our very lives that others might hear the gospel and be saved. We must learn as members of the church to communicate the gospel to others in a living and personal manner. Missions is the work of the whole church of Jesus Christ, and not just of a few ministers or missionaries. As members of the church we need to get directly involved in the work of missions. As Reformed churches we have done well in emphasizing the centrality of the official preaching of the gospel by ordained men in all the work of the church. I would not want to detract from that one iota. But have we done as well in emphasizing the great importance of the involvement of the members of the church in the office of all believers in the work of missions? We need members who will get themselves involved in starting Bible studies and supporting the preaching of the Word in places other than our own church. We need members of the church who are willing to make large sacrifices, such as perhaps leaving their own congregations to start new churches, and maybe even moving to other areas of the country to start new churches. I do not believe that we will ever become a truly mission-minded church until the members of our denomination see their calling. We need the members of our churches to have a profound appreciation for the Reformed Faith which the Lord has given to us and to give a zealous testimony of the Reformed Faith in their lives and with their mouths to their neighbors. We need members of the church who will invite relatives, friends, and neighbors to come to church with them. We must understand that very few people will come to our churches by means of mere newspaper and radio advertisements. They need to be invited personally. Those who come to mission stations need to be supported and encouraged by our own members. We are expecting too much of people when we think that even before they come under the strong conviction of the Reformed Faith through the hearing of the preaching and instruction, they will make the necessary sacrifices and suffer persecution and reproach from the world without the support of strong and zealous members of our churches. We need Priscillas and Aquilas for the mission field, unordained people that will devote large amounts of time and energy to supporting the work of missions in a given place. I believe that often our mission fields have struggled so hard because the minister or missionary on the field is expected to labor so much alone.
In order to expand significantly the work of missions in our denomination we need a continual supply of ordained ministers. We believe that the preaching of the Word is central in all the work of the church. For this we need ministers. We must by no means become slack in calling and encouraging young men from our churches to give themselves to the full-time ministry of the gospel of Christ Jesus. We must continue to pray for reapers in the Lord’s harvest.
The work of missions is also a very expensive work. If we are to expand our missions we must be ready also to give sacrificially for this cause. Surely the Lord has given to us great abundance so that we have great potential to give. We were especially struck by the great wealth of Americans when we traveled around on our recent furlough. How much more we as Americans have than most of the rest of the world. Also the members of our churches do not lag behind other Americans in the beautiful cars, palatial homes, large and prosperous farms that they have. The Lord has given us all these things. If we would truly give sacrificially for the cause of missions, being ready even to forego some of our luxuries, we could come up with very large sums of money for the work of the preaching of the gospel; Surely our earnest desire to publish the glorious praises of our God and our great desire for the salvation of men ought to make us to be ready even to sell all that we have if necessary. I am not suggesting that it is necessary for us all to sell all that we have, but only that it is necessary for us all to make large sacrifices for the Lord’s sake.
In order to expand the work of missions we need also to search more actively for new mission fields. Much of the burden of doing this falls upon our mission committees. I would not suggest that the brethren on these committees are not laboring hard. From direct experience I know better than that. Perhaps we need to expand our mission committees to do the necessary work of investigating fields. We need to do much more in terms of going to fields and preaching on fields and doing preliminary investigatory work. There are cases in which we as a church will receive a Macedonian Call to come to a certain field. It is questionable however whether that is the only basis to work in a given field and to investigate a certain field. Surely the apostle Paul did not remain in Antioch. He went out on, missionary journeys preaching the Word where the Lord directed and establishing churches where people were gathered around that preaching of the Word. Our labors in Singapore did not begin with a Macedonian Call, unless we want very much to stretch the idea of a Macedonian Call. In reality our labors in Singapore started simply through two of our ministers first coming to Singapore and preaching. Though it was not planned or expected, by the providence of the Lord there were those who came to hear the preaching, and over the process of time showed more and more appreciation for that preaching through contact with our churches. Then our churches convinced them of the need and benefit of having a missionary here and they were persuaded to call a missionary of our churches. I believe we need to do much more in investigating fields and looking for fields of labor. How quickly a year goes by and no recommendations for a new field come to our Synod and we cannot move on in the work of missions. Years go by without any new developments. Surely we believe that the progress of the work of missions is under the sovereign control and direction of the Lord. This does not however preclude the necessity of our actively searching for mission fields and thereby searching His will.
May the Lord bless our churches that we may be more faithful in our calling, for the glory of His name and the increase of His church and the salvation of those ordained to eternal life.