What Does it Mean to be a Missionary?

Romans 15:14-33


When people here in the USA are asked to support missions, they often wonder what do missionaries do? It reminds me of a cartoon I once read:
Illustration: In a “Peanuts” cartoon, Lucy asks Charlie Brown, “Why are we here on Earth?” Charlie replied, “To make other people happy.” Lucy replied, “Then why are they here?”
Paul was the first Christian foreign missionary. He set an example for all of us to follow in ministry. In fact, he was bold enough to say, at times, “Follow my example and do what I do as I follow Jesus. “ Let’s see from Paul’s letter to the Romans what missionaries do. Look at Romans 15:14-33.
A. Paul Was One Of The Most Prolific Biblical Writers:
1. He wrote 13 or 14 N.T. books, and many other letters.
2. He tackled many difficult theological issues.
3. He wrote both occasionally and intentionally.
Illustration: The Epistles to the Corinthians are like the game show “Jeopardy;” we have his answers, but we have to figure out the questions.
B. The Ministry Of Writing Is Vital:
1. The written word can often be more expressive and definitive.
2. The written word remains, when spoken word leaves
Illustration: “How many of us remember last week’s sermon?”#
3. The written word can go places we cannot.
Illustration: “Prison, other countries, soldiers in combat zones, etc.”
Illustration: “It has been said that John 3:16 inscribed on a pencil and sent into a country that is closed to the Gospel is better than all the eloquent sermons never heard.”
Illustration: “One Muslim in The Gambia, West Africa was converted simply by reading the Bible. No one had witnessed or preached to him at the time of his decision for Christ.”
C. How Do Missionaries Imitate Paul In This?
1. They translate the Bible into local languages.
Illustration: “For Muslims the Koran is only authoritative if it is in Arabic. Muslims are taught that Arabic is the true language of God. Christians believe that God speaks all languages; people should have God’s Word in their own tongue.”
2. They produce & distribute literature.
Illustration: The State Board of Missions will produce customized tracts for evangelistic events.
Illustration: Operation “Go” in Guatemala.
3. They produce videos and movies, like the Jesus Film.
Illustration: A Yao woman in Mali was watching the Jesus Film in her language. When she first heard Jesus speak, she was so excited she ran through her village shouting: “Jesus speaks Yao! Jesus speaks Yao! Jesus speaks Yao!”
A. Speaking Is The Primary Means Of Ministry:
1. Missionaries speak to preach, teach, and witness.
2. Missionaries speak to comfort and to encourage.
3. Speech is almost always available & needs no equipment, etc.
Illustration: “Paul told Timothy to be ready to preach the Gospel, in season and out . . .”
B. How Did Paul Use Speech In Ministry?
1. Preached and taught Jews and Gentiles.
2. He told the complete Gospel of Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
Illustration: “Preached so long that a boy fell out of window . . .”
3. He made sure that his character matched his rhetoric.
Illustration: “He talked the talk AND walked the walk.”
C. How Do Missionaries Imitate Paul In Speaking?
1. They tell their personal story, which has great power. No one can argue with what Christ has done in your life.
Illustration: “One winter, a group of men were working in an overheated room. Almost all of them had taken off their coats and were in their shirt sleeves and yet they were still sweating. One man noticed that a co-worker not only had on his heavy coat, but his scarf and gloves also. ‘You can’t be cold,’ he exclaimed, ‘look how the rest of us are sweating in this heat.’ The co-worker replied. ‘Yes, I do feel cold. You can’t tell me how I feel.’”
2. They use special techniques to reach illiterate people, such as Chronological Bible Storying.
Illustration: “One missionary taught groups of volunteers from America to use this technique to successfully witness through translators to Muslims in West Africa.”
3. They also tell the story of missions to church members to challenge them to continue to support the Great Commission by giving, praying, and going.
Illustration: “In September of 2008, Alabama Baptists celebrated the fact that they had given a total of $1 Billion to missions through the Cooperative Program. This is a great achievement, yet there are many millions of people who have never heard the Gospel message.”
A. In The First Century Many Had Never Heard The Gospel:
1. The Gospel was first preached to the Jews.
2. God also wanted the Gentiles to hear it as well.
3. The Great Commission commands the church to make disciples of all nations (peoples).
4. The Church must go to all corners of the earth and all peoples (Acts 1:8).
Illustration: “His 3 Missionary Journeys show that Paul was obedient to the command of God to go.”
B. Many Overseas Have Never Heard The Gospel Today:
1. There are 6.7 Billion people in the world; there are only 750,000 Believers.
2. 1.6 Billion people around the world live in areas where access to the Gospel is denied by governments or societal institutions.
3. Islam is spreading rapidly through Europe, and also making inroads in some parts of the US and Canada.
C. Many Of Our Close Neighbors Have Never Heard Either:
1. There are at least 230 Million lost people in North America.
Illustration: Norm Canada is a North American Missionary in Charleston, WV. He serves where the Appalachian Mountains meet the inner city. He works with people who are 4th generation welfare recipients. Not only did their moms have children by 2 or 3 boyfriends, but so did their grandmothers and even their great-grandmothers! This culture does not know that pornography, cohabitation before marriage, and gambling are wrong and self-destructive!
2. Alabama is also a mission field. Over 40% of our population are not members of a local church (2 million out of 4.6 million)!
3. Over 90% of the residents of multiple housing units (mobile home parks and apartment complexes) are unchurched.
D. Missionaries Share The Gospel With The Unreached In Many Ways:
1. They use Ministry Evangelism.
2. They use Literacy Missions.
3. They start new churches and congregations.
4. They use sports outreach evangelism.
5. They reach out to those who seem unwinnable.
Illustration: State Missionary Marcus Merritt rode his motorcycle from Montgomery, AL to Sturgis, SD to participate in an outreach to bikers at the Sturgis Bike Rally. Over 1,300 people made professions of faith.
A. Paul Did Not Intend To Homestead In Any One Place:
1. His calling was not to pastor a single church, but to start many.
2. His method was to begin a work, train up local leaders, and then pass the baton to them.
3. 2 Timothy 2:2 is a perfect summary of his methodology: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also”.
4. When his work was done in a place, he followed God’s leading to another field to start a new work all over again or to reinforce a work he had started on a previous ministry.
Illustration: “The EBCO Battery Company has a slogan Paul would agree with. They are ‘Always Starting Something’. Their logo is a feisty little boy with a black eye!”
B. This Is A Key Missionary Concept:
1. Missionaries don’t want to foster dependence upon them.
2. They want new churches and ministries to mature and develop.
3. They know that the best way to grow the Kingdom of God is through multiplying ministries, congregations, and churches.
Illustration: Jim Slack of the IMB teaches the 1 X 2 X 3 Rule: In the same amount of time it takes to bring 1 new person into an existing church, you can bring 2 people into a new unit or class in an existing church. In the same amount of time, you can bring 3 people into a new church.
Illustration: “The Methodist Church spread widely in Colonial America because of the work of the Circuit Riders, who ranged wider and wider across the frontier, starting new classes and churches. This came at a cost; few lived into their 40’s.”
C. God’s Kingdom Needs Missionaries AND Pastors:
1. Someone must start new works: these are missionaries!
2. Someone must stay and see that they become completely mature: these are pastors (and church staff members)!
3. Fortunately, God calls people out to do both (Ephesians 4:11-16)!
A. There Is Power In Presence That Can’t Be Felt Any Other Way:
Illustration: “In this age of call centers, people still like doing business in person.”
Illustration:  “Jesus came to earth in person to seek us out.”
Illustration: “God sent the Holy Spirit to be present in our lives.”
B. Why Is There Power In Presence?
            1. It allows you to see a person’s reality and empathize.
            2. It demonstrates your interest in a physical way.
            3. It allows the comfort of a touch.
            4. Sometimes being present is all that you can do!
C. Paul’s Example:
1. He took three missionary journeys.
2. He visited new fields. He visited old fields.
3. He was willing to go where he was needed.
Illustration: “He was like the TV Character Paladin whos motto was ‘Have gun, Will Travel.’”
D.     How Do Missionaries Imitate Paul In Being Present?
1.     They go where the people are:
Illustration: “They use 4wd trucks to reach people in the African rainy season.”
2.     They live the way local people do. They eat the same food and they wear the same clothing.
3.     They learn local language and customs; they may even take a local name
4.     They live out Christian lives before non-believers.
Illustration: “Muslim marriage relationships are very businesslike. It is a powerful witness to live out a Christian marriage in a Muslim culture, since a Christian marriage represents the relationship between Christ and the church.”
A. The Situation In Jerusalem At This Time Was Grim:
            1. Christians were hated by the Jews.
            2. The Romans had just labeled the Church as an outlaw religion.
            3. Many believers were lower class and were often poor or slaves.
B. Paul Mobilized The Love Of The Brethren:
            1. Believers in Europe realized their debt to Jerusalem church.
            2. Took up a collection & sent it by Paul and a delegation.
            3. The church ministered to human needs.
C. How Do Missionaries Imitate Paul In Being Benevolent?
1. They help with housing needs.
Illustration: “Rebuilding homes after the Pacific Tsunami and through Operation NOAH after Hurricane Katrina.”
2. They help with hunger needs.
Illustration: “A Disaster Relief Feeding Unit responding after a hurricane.”
3.     They help with medical needs.
Illustration:  “At one time, the IMB ran a dental clinic in The Gambia that served a population of 800,000.”
D. Christ Did Not Come To Earth To Heal The Sick.
1. He came to seek and save that which was lost.
2. While He was on Earth, however, He could not help be benevolent Himself and show His love to people through benevolence. So do missionaries.
Illustration: “In West Africa, a volunteer optometrist gave a pair of used glasses to a former high school teacher.  The Muslim man had taught until his eyesight got so bad he could no longer see to read, and then he had to quit. When he got his glasses, he also received a copy of the New Testament in his own language. He left rejoicing, saying, ‘I can read again! I can read this book and I want to know what it says!’”
A. Paul Believed In Prayer:
            1. Paul prayed for all people (1 Timothy 2:1-8).
            2. Paul prayed for those in authority (1 Tim 2:2).
            3. Paul prayed for believers (Phil 1:9/Col 1:9).
            4. In fact, Paul prayed without ceasing (1 Th 5:17).
            5. Paul also wanted people to pray for him (Rom 15:30-32).
B. Missionaries Also Believe In Prayer:
1. They pray before they engage in ministry, during ministry, and after ministry.
2. They believe in prayer walking.
Illustration: Graham Kendrick calls this “Praying on-site with insight!”
3. Prayer is a major part of the strategy of IMB and NAMB.
4. Missionaries often wait until their birthdays to make major decisions, because they know many people are praying for them on that day.
Illustration:  “People will often say, ‘All I can do is pray.’ In truth, sometimes the BEST thing you can do is pray!”
Conclusion:  Paul was a “Full Gospel” preacher: He preached with his words, his actions, and his life. So do our missionaries today!
Otis Corbitt
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