Tambo, Ecuador — A little over a week ago we learned of an earthquake in Ecuador, and numerous aftershocks have continued rattling the region – over 700 so far. Our concern has been not only for people in danger, but our hearts are also pained because our adopted homeland is suffering. We spent years living in Ecuador and still return here several times a year. Our hearts are also in this country because our son, daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren live here – on the 15th floor of an apartment building. So we have multiple reasons to be keenly concerned as we await more news about the devastation.
I have been preaching at the Spanish Language Institute and for a pastors and leaders conference at La Cumbre throughout the past week. This has allowed me a beautiful week in Costa Rica, but as this ministry opportunity came to an end, we finally flew to Ecuador. With the ongoing news, this flight could not have come fast enough. Not only because we wanted to see and hug our family and know they are safe, but because we are drawn here and identify with Ecuador’s success and sadness, trials and triumphs, whether in safety or shaking.
Knowing that some will delay vacations to Ecuador or re-think the possibility of coming here because of risks from seismic activity, it dawned on me that my yearning to get here where the shaking continues and danger is very real would appear odd to some. I considered how very much this is like a missionary call. Some of your family and friends may wonder about the sanity of anyone who intentionally goes to gospel-hostile hotspots of the world where Westerners are at great risk – simply for being Westerners – and are even more so for being Christians. Yet those of you who are called feel like you cannot get there fast enough. God stirs our hearts and uses our desires to accomplish His desire – to seek and to save that which is lost.
Called by God
A missionary call is defined in a multitude of ways. We know that God has called all Christians to be involved in the international missions work. Some are goers and some are senders, but all are to be involved. Charles Spurgeon said that every believer is “either a missionary or an imposter.” He didn’t mean that everyone must sell the house and pack up to go live in another country; he didn’t. He was probably using a definition of missionary kind of like, “a missionary is anyone who cannot get used to the sound of pagan footsteps on their way to a Christless eternity.” I think that is what Hudson Taylor had in mind also when he said, “The Great Commission is not an option to consider. It is a commandment to obey.” All of us are to be involved in some way. As John Piper reminds us, you are a goer, or a sender, or in sin.
After Stephen was stoned, the church scattered and regrouped in Syrian Antioch. They were committed to gospel advance and they began to evangelize widely. They lived as much like Jesus as they could, and so much so that they were derisively called Christians – a nickname that means “little Christs.” The name stuck because it was an accurate description. It is no wonder that it was to this church that the Holy Spirit came to the elders as they were praying and fasting and called from among them the first missionaries. “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) It is interesting that He did not add, “the rest of you are slackers.” The Holy Spirit establishes the pattern we have followed for centuries: those who are called and the ones who are to go, the others are to send them.
Paul confirms this pattern in Romans 10:13-15.
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”
Some are goers and some are senders. If we all go, who will send? If we all send, who are we to send? In the Lord’s pattern that we clearly see in Scripture, we each have a role to play – in the church, in the home, and in missions.
With a Unique Role
The question is not whether you are to be involved in missions, the question is how are you to be involved. Who gets to say? The Holy Spirit who gives us the unique spiritual gifts and the abilities we have, is the one who calls, equips, and places believers in the places they should serve Him. Make sure that your missionary effort is not unintentional guilt manipulation by over-zealous conference speakers (as I tend to be) or snappy mottoes on missions websites. Get close enough to Jesus that you can hear the still, small voice, and stay there. When you hear it, you will be drawn, not driven to your place of service.
Where has He called you? What has He called you to do? When are you going or how are you sending? May we all hear, discern, and answer His call for the advance of the kingdom and glory to Christ among every people in every nation.