“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”– Matthew 9:37-38
I am planning a mission undertaking to Nepal with Pastor Mark Tay in late April after the church’s ACM. (Rev Chai, I believe, is also undertaking a mission trip to China at an earlier date). My purpose for the Nepal trip is to visit, fellowship with, and conduct bible training for, the pastors we support there, as well as pastors and staff from the Bible School and pastors associated with our work in Nepal. Our gospel partners there have informed me that they will be able to assemble about 30 such people for what will, by God’s grace, turn out to be a bible conference blessed by Him. The trip will also be a good introduction to the mission work there for Pastor Mark Tay.
Whenever I think about the mission work we undertake I am deeply burdened by the many challenges we face and the many “stewardship” questions I ask myself – burdens and questions the church too needs to face. Let me explain.
Many years ago, Bruce F. Hunt, a pioneering missions pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in an address to the Westminster Theological Seminary, asserted this central thesis about missions: “The work of the church is missions; missions is the work of the church; and the work of missions is the church.” You get the point?
So, we (you and I and the church) must first start with the sincere desire to want to obey the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ to his church – “Go … make disciples … baptize … teach…” But the key question is what shape and form does our obedience take? We currently do different things in different places -- from China to Nepal -- are we doing the right things? What is our vision? What is the right strategy? Should we narrow our focus and deepen our support or should we spread our focus and shallow our support? Leadership is not about doing things right. It is about doing the right thing! So what is the right thing for us to do?
We could debate all these questions till the cows come home and not arrive at a right answer. Why? Because there is no one right answer. The characteristics of the different “harvest fields” are different and diverse; and, we ought to be smart enough to realise and accept that one size does not fit all.
So what should we do? Well, I believe we should adopt a couple of principles as guidelines and remain flexible for God to lead us.
First, we start by humbling ourselves enough to let the Holy Spirit lead us. We should not do what we want to do, but to do what God is doing and we “join” him and be used by him. If he is opening the door for the gospel in a particular place, then we “go” as he has commanded. Secondly, we must pray for a clear and right vision for ourselves. A vision is crucial as it points us in the right direction. (And yes, before you ask, we do have a vision.) Making disciples, baptizing and teaching, the other components in the Great Commission require the involvement and prayerful support of the whole church. Hence, we must equip ourselves for this. If you accept Bruce Hunt’s assertion that “missions is the work of the church”, then you have to be involved. You can’t leave it to a few overworked and over-stretched individuals.
None of Jesus’ commands are easy, particularly the Great Commission; hence his imperative: “pray earnestly!”
Are You? I would like to encourage you to pray with me for OUR undertaking so that we can be found to be obedient – rightly – to his command.
Pastor Robert Chew