“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot
"Jim Elliot and four other missionaries –
, and their pilot,
– made contact from their
Piper PA-14 airplane
with the Huaorani using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts. After several months, the men decided to build a base a short distance from the Indian village, along the
. There they were approached one time by a small group of Huaorani and even gave an airplane ride to one curious Huaorani whom they called "George" (his real name was Naenkiwi). Encouraged by these friendly encounters, they began plans to visit the Huaorani, without knowing that Naenkiwi had lied to the others about the missionaries' intentions. Their plans were preempted by the arrival of a larger group of about 10 Huaorani warriors, who killed Elliot and his four companions on January 8, 1956. Jim Elliot was the first of the five missionaries killed when he and Peter Fleming were greeting two of those attackers that showed themselves pretending they were interested in taking plane rides with them. Elliot's body was found downstream, along with those of the other men, except that of Ed McCully which was found even farther downstream.
Missionary Jim Elliot was only 28 years old when he was killed while doing mission work in Ecuador. Many people at the time thought these five men had wasted their lives. But their legacy has continued far beyond their lifespan.
Two excellent movies that relate their story are: “The End of the Spear” and “Through Gates of Splendor”.
They tell the rest of the story and if you are familiar with it you know that Jim’s wife Elisabeth Elliot and others continued to work with the Auca tribe and eventually led many to Christ.
What drove these men? Why were they so motivated? Why go through all the effort, trouble, and expense of training to leave home and preach the gospel around the world? And then die…
These are legitimate questions. And may even bring us to a point of asking why we as a church are involved in missions. Whether we go ourselves or send others, crossing cultures to serve among the least reached and unreached people’s of the world is a complex process that requires an unbelievable amount of hard work and sacrifice. Furthermore, there is plenty of need right here on our own doorstep…
So why Missions?
By way of clarification “Missions” has historically been defined as cross cultural evangelism. In other words bringing the gospel message to people we are separated from, typically by multiple barriers like language and culture, with less emphasis on geography. Geographically there are 195 countries in existence currently. Among those countries there exists approx. 16,000 people groups with a unique culture and or language. 16,000!
Do you know how many have been penetrated by the gospel? Approximately thirty percent. Do you know how many have access to the gospel in their own language? Again, it is about thirty percent.
That leaves the last third that has no viable access to the gospel in their own language. 5,300 people groups. That represents a little more than 2 Billion people, that’s more than 2,000,000,000 living their lives and dying without ever hearing a clear, understandable presentation of the gospel message. Perhaps never even hearing the name of Jesus.
So again I ask why Missions? Well here are five reasons that I’ll credit to information gained from a course called Perspectives as well as a book called “When Everything is Missions” by Dennis Spitters and Matthew Ellison.
5 answers to “Why Missions”?
Because God’s heart beats for the nations
– On how many occasions did Jesus give the Great Commission? At least five, John 20:21, Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:44-49, and Acts 1:8. These great commissioning passages report what Jesus taught to different audiences on different occasions.
Because Jesus is the only means of salvation
– If men could be saved in any way other than through Jesus then according to Paul, not only did Jesus die in vain (Galatians 2:21) but we who preach, preach in vain. And missionaries? They better find another line of work.
Because our churches can’t afford not to do missions
– The encouragement and joy that comes from being involved with the family business enlivens and enrichens the church body. Not only do we send, support and encourage our partners, but they enrichen our lives and encourage us when they share about what God is doing where they are serving.
Because we are called to know God and to make Him known
– In Isaiah 6:1-8 we find one of the most significant missional passages in all of scripture. Here we see what set Isaiah on Mission to know God and to make Him known:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Isaiah’s commission into the ministry began with what A.W. Tozer calls a crisis of encounter, a definitive life experience. Isaiah would never be the same again.
Because the Lamb deserves His reward
– The Moravian story is well worth learning. It is rich with prayer, faith, and mighty works by ordinary people living on faith and obedience. Their departing rally cry became “May the lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering”. Knowing that Jesus had purchased with His own blood , souls from every nation, tribe, tongue and people (Revelation 5:9-10) and it propelled them into action.
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Notice how the lamb of God is worshiped in this passage: Jesus has ransomed, with His precious blood, people from every tribe, every culture, every language group. The reward of His suffering is the gathering in of worshipers from all the people of the world. We must remember that the blood of Jesus was shed, not just for us, but for the worldwide Church of God from all nations.
Realistically most of us are not going to the Nations. In fact, God is not calling most of us to go to the nations. However, that does not relieve us from the responsibility (privilege really) of seeing the gospel message taken to the nations. We have a pretty strong effort toward taking the gospel to the nations here at TCF. Get informed and get involved if you’re not already. Learn about the areas the church is involved and seek God for how or where He might use you. While you may not go to the nations, you can support those that are called to go. What’s more you are more and more likely to encounter unreached people groups here in the states. Be prepared to give a short simple gospel proclamation.
Some of you are very good at making money, put it to use in the expansion of the gospel.
Some of you are good at defining vision and helping people share that vision with others,
put those gifts to work for kingdom expansion.
Some of you may not feel like you are very good at anything… I feel that way sometimes. Well we can pray together and ask the King of the universe to open doors for the gospel. We can ask Him to provide more workers for a field that is ready for harvest. We can pray for marriages and families and teams that are serving in difficult places. We can pray that God would strengthen and encourage them and make them bold in their sharing.
The story of Jesus is good news, in fact it is great news and it is worth sharing.
He is no fool who gives his mortal life to gain for others their eternal life.