Mike Durning reporting in from the SGI conference.
After a powerful set of hymns, prayers, and Scripture reading, and a report from a European conference much like SGI, the night’s message was given by Dr. Mark Minnick, pastor from Greenville, South Carolina and professor from Bob Jones University.
He began by expressing how inspiring it has been to be at this conference and see a new generation motivated by missions.
He made some introductory comments about the Student Volunteer Movement of the early 1900’s, how it arose, and its impact. He read a quote from one of those meetings, which indicated that each believer winning one person per year, and each of these winning one person the next year, and so on, would result in the world’s evangelization in a little over 31 years. This calculation inspired Andrew Murray’s classic book, “The Key to the Missionary Problem.” But the Student Volunteer Movement failed, as it finally succumbed to compromise of core doctrinal values.
Now we have another generation arising to reach the world.
There are 6-1/2 billion people on earth. 2 billion of them are Christian by some definitions, though most of those would be so only nominally. 4-1/2 billion of them are unreached by anybody’s definition.
How do we reach those people?
The Great Commission passages of the Scriptures, of which there are several, ought to define this. But our gifts and personalities influence the way in which we each do this.
Dr. Minnick stated that he intends to address only one kind of person and how they can evangelize.
He read Romans 15:15-25, with special attention to the 20th verse. Verse 20 is the viewpoint of a gospel pioneer.
I. How can I tell if I am a Gospel Pioneer?
Verse 19-“I have fully preached the gospel of Christ…” Verse 23-“but now, with no further place for me in these regions.”
The Gospel Pioneer defines himself in terms of reaching unreached places.
He had everyone turn to maps in the back of their Bibles. He said Paul’s arc of travel in missions was nearly 2000 miles over 15 years and 3 missionary journeys. How can Paul say “I have fully preached the gospel…so that there is no further place for me in these regions”?
He clearly is not saying “I’ve talked to every individual who lives on that arc, let alone, discipled them.” He could not even say that he had taken the gospel to every town or village in those regions. That would not really be possible.
But a Gospel Pioneer looks at these things differently.
So what does a pioneer mean when he says what Paul says and feels what Paul felt? Verse 20 lets us know that there is a legitimate and Scriptural way in which someone like Paul can say that his work has been done once the foundation has been laid. “Foundations have been laid,” says that person, “so it’s time for me to move on.” That is the viewpoint of a Pioneer.
By way of illustration, he told about a recent attempt to share the gospel. The man was churched, but lost. Dr. Minnick observed that here is a man who is lost—but he is not in a place where there is no foundation. He can hear the gospel in America.
He shared a quote from an early Christian missionary about the value of sharing Christ where His gospel has never been heard and His Word never read in their own language.
These are the people who not only pioneer mission fields, but who pioneered missions itself in the sense that we know it. People like Judson, Carey, C.T. Studd.
C.T. Studd, though a disciple of Moody, was different. Moody was an evangelist where foundations had already been laid. But C.T. Studd was aflame with the desire to evangelize where there was no foundation. He went on to talk about the tour of the Cambridge 7, whose promotion of missions doubled the number of missionaries with the China Inland Mission.
A Gospel Pioneer thinks like this: “Even though in this country there are millions of people who don’t know Christ, there are foundations here, and they can hear the gospel. But for me, there is no place here, because my gifts and callings are to preach where there is no foundation.”
II. The Aspiration of a Pioneer is to Evangelize where nobody has ever evangelized. V. 20
If that kind of aspiration drives your thinking, then you could teach at a Bible College on the Mission field, or assist a more senior missionary, but you will never be satisfied at it. That’s the spirit of a pioneer.
So, are there places like that in the world? Places with no foundation?
He told about a missionary who showed him places on maps of the Philippines where there were unreached tribes. He said that the missionary indicated that many missionaries stay near the cities, but few go out to these tribes. Furthermore, the government, until recently, denied that these tribes even exist!
There are vast portions of the world like that.
Within the 10-40 window, 2/3rds of the earth’s population lives. 90% of the world’s unreached people are believed to live in that window. Many of them are Closed or Restricted Access with regard to Missionaries. This means a strategy for penetrating those regions must be arrived at. The pioneers must find a way.
He spoke of a recent edition of National Geographic magazine, which talked about people groups who do not even know we exist, what country they live in, etc. They have no trade goods, and have never left their area.
III. A Pioneer has Scriptural Authority.
In verse 21, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:15 as the Scriptural authorization, the fuel, for his mission.
Isaiah 53:10 talks of his children who He (the suffering Savior) will see. Their salvation is guaranteed. And the pioneer is reaching some of these people—the ones who have never heard (Isa. 52:15).
When you go into those nations, you are the shock troops, going in without a support team. But God will give a harvest everywhere.
He closed with a story about John G. Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, who buried a wife and child there, left the field for awhile, and returned. It was 4 more years (bringing the total to 10 years) till he had converts. Speaking of sharing the Lord’s Table with these converts, he said “At the moment I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now reached out to take the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of Glory that well nigh broke my heart in pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss, till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus Himself.”
He challenged those who can understand and relate to that mindset to affirm to the Lord their willingness to go if He so directs.