“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.” (John Piper from Let the Nations Be Glad)
This weekend, during our annual missions conference, we will hear from Karl and Sun Dahlfred, working with OMF International in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand is a poignant example of why we are involved in missions. In a population of 68 million people, 67 million of them are in unreached people groups, and only 0.5% are evangelical according to the Joshua Project. Clearly, there is a lot of evangelism that needs to be done. Cambodia, where Sun and her family lived before they fled the “killing fields”, isn’t much better. That is why the Dahlfreds are where they are.
Cross-cultural missions is a response to this need. Typically, we first go to the nations and preaching the Gospel. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15). Karl and Sun themselves are investing in the lives of the next generation of church leaders in Thailand through the church and, for Karl, by teaching church history and missions at Bangkok Bible Seminary.
The usual pattern is this: go, preach and teach. Sometimes, God in His sovereign plan, adds more. In an account drawn from interviews with Don Richardson from his book “Eternity in their Hearts”, missionary colleagues of Adiram Judson (a well-known missionary to Burma) went to the Karen people, a people of Burma completely unreached by the Gospel. It turns out that the Karen not only believed in one Supreme God, they even believed that God had given mankind his Sacred Writings in a book. Unfortunately, their ancestors lost that book, but one day, they believed, the true God would send a white brother from the distant West in a ship with white sails to bring another copy of the lost book to them. All the people were waiting for years…decades…centuries.
And then one day, light-skinned man, George Dana Boardman, came with a Burmese Bible that was in process of being translated. He had no knowledge of the Karen prophecy. He arrived in a ship with white sails. He was kind and brotherly. So the Karen, hearing about him, came thronging his and his wife’s house. Thousands of Karen became believers in Jesus Christ as he learned their language and taught them.
Evangelism and God’s providential preparation are of course necessary. But it doesn’t stop there. As Karl writes, “I love evangelism. But the longer I spend on the mission field, the more I believe that in all our zeal to fulfill the Great Commission, evangelical missions often fails to take seriously the entirety of what Jesus told his disciples in Matt 28:18-20.” Teaching, training, and discipleship are critical for a church to endure, grow, and reach even more people for Christ. May God bless us as we continue follow this example here, and provide support for those engaged in this task around the world.