Convictions that Drive Missions

Conviction #9—The Need of the Hour Is for Thousands of New Paul-Type Missionaries, A Fact That Is Sometimes Obscured by the Quantity of Timothy-Type Missionaries.

Timothy left Lystra, his hometown (Acts 16:1). This is the model of a Timothy-type missionary: going far away to do Christian work where the church is fairly well established. It has biblical precedent and it is a good thing to do, if God calls you.

But that’s not what Paul was called to do. His passion was to make God’s name known in all the unreached peoples of the world. He said that he made it his ambition “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named.” (Romans 15:20,23: “From Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum, I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ…I no longer have any room for work in these regions.” This stunned me, when I finally saw its implications.

No room for work between Jerusalem and northern Greece! His work there is done in spite of all the unbelievers that remain! He is now moving on to Spain. How could he say this? The answer is that he was a frontier missionary, not just a cross-cultural missionary. He was called to reach the unreached peoples, where there is no church to evangelize its own people.

What most Christians don’t know today is that there are probably ten times more Timothy-type missionaries in the world than there are Paul-type missionaries. And yet there are still thousands of people groups—especially Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and tribal peoples—who have no access to a gospel-preaching church in their own culture.

Patrick Johnstone and others published in late 1996 a book entitled The Unreached Peoples (Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 1996). In it, the 2000 least-reached people groups are listed on pages 102-111. This gives you an idea of the remaining urgent need for missionaries who are willing to cross language and culture for the fame of Christ and the salvation of the perishing.

Therefore, our prayer for Bethlehem is that we put a very high priority on raising up and sending frontier missionaries—Paul-type missionaries. Not that we diminish the sacrifice and preciousness of the Timothy-type missionaries, but that we realize what the utterly critical, uniquely missionary need is in the world; namely, there are thousands of people groups with no access to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

Only Paul-type missionaries can reach them. That must be a huge priority for us. Without the gospel, everything is in vain. A crucial role that the Timothy-type missionaries play is to raise up Paul-type missionaries among the peoples with whom they are working.

Conviction #10—It Is the Joyful Duty and the Awesome Privilege of Every Local Church to Send Out Missionaries “In a Manner Worthy of God.” (3 John 6“>3 John 6)

But before we can send them, we must grow them or identify the ones who have been “grown” elsewhere but whom God is calling us to send. According to 3 John 7“>3 John 7-8, there is a biblical mandate that we ought to support missionaries—a certain kind of missionary—one who has gone out “for the sake of the name.” “For they went out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers with the truth.”

There is a big difference between a church that “has” missionaries (on the back of their bulletin or as a line item in their budget) and a church that “sends” missionaries.

To send in a manner worthy of God is to so recognize the supreme importance of proclaiming the name of God in word and deed among the nations that we will do whatever we can to support those who go out for the sake of the name—spiritually, practically, emotionally, financially.

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.