As a pastor, there are some questions you get asked more often than others. One of those questions usually has to do with the eternal fate of people in the world who have never heard the gospel. For example, some group of indigenous people somewhere in the world who have never touched a Bible, never met a Christian, and have never even heard the name of Jesus. What is the fate of those people? Do they get to go to heaven because they have never heard the gospel and not had a chance to respond? This is a serious question and should not be ignored; we need to answer it. The Bible does say that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). So my answer would be that people only go to heaven by placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior, and that comes from hearing about Him. They need to hear about Christ in order to be saved.
Now, this Voice article is not about discussing all the ramifications and implications of that truth and how the answer could stir up certain positive or negative feelings in Christians. But there are some Christians who are so burdened by the reality of people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ before, that they do something about it. They become missionaries. That is a term that Christianity has coined to describe someone who takes the gospel overseas to the people of the world who don’t have a regular chance to hear the gospel like we do here in the United States. The work of a church in supporting that global gospel reach is called Missions. The next characteristic of a healthy church that we see this month is: Missions Minded. This characteristic is different than Persistent Evangelism in that this characteristic is focused on the gospel reaching the nations of the world, rather than just believers sharing the gospel in their everyday life. A church should have a strong Missions program to see the gospel reach the entire globe.
The call for Christians to take the gospel to all nations is not in doubt in Scripture. Jesus called together His disciples after His resurrection and gave them what we call the Great Commission in Matthew 28. He said to make disciples of ‘all the nations.’ There is not one country that should be left out of that work. All the nations must hear the gospel because the Lord told us to go make disciples there. But what if we don’t actually live in a foreign country? Then we take the gospel to those places: missionaries. A form of the Great Commission is found near the end of all 4 gospels. In the book of Acts, Jesus lays out the pattern for missions work: starting in their hometown and working outwardly to the ends of the earth. Yes, the Lord commanded it, but it was also understood that this glorious message of salvation would be proclaimed. It is not a message to keep to oneself.
Throughout the Bible we find story after story that shows God’s global plan. Although He worked primarily through the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, He has always had a heart for all peoples. From Rahab to the task of the prophet Jonah, God is bringing people into relationship with Himself from all the nations. When we see the glimpse of heaven in Revelation 4 and 5, we see people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. How do those people come to know the Lord? Through the work of missionaries.
Now we know that all Christians are not called on to be missionaries to foreign countries. The Lord sovereignly has a role and a purpose for each one of us. But a church, if the people have the heart of God, will have a heart for all the peoples of the earth, and will be Missions Minded. Maybe not all of us are missionaries, but all of us can pray for missionaries. All of us can support missionaries. All of us can encourage and love missionaries. In a way, each one of us can have an active role in Missions.
The Lord laid the work of Missions on my heart having gone on a short-term missionary trip to England back in 2008. It was there, through the sovereign appointment of God, I was able to share the gospel with a random stranger in Rugby, England. After I told him about the work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross to pay for sin, I’ll never forget his response. He said, “I’ve never heard that before.” The message that I preach every Sunday, that we hear all the time, this man had never heard in his life! Not once! The Lord humbled me that day. All the little things I was concerned about in my church at home: the building, the grounds, the temperature of the A/C, all of that was suddenly a lot less important. There are people out there who have never heard of Jesus Christ.
If the reality of people going to hell because they have never heard the gospel really bothers you and really upsets you, then I challenge you to do something about it. Find a foreign missionary to support, start praying for that particular people group who has no gospel contact, or take a giant step of faith and get on a plane and tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever role we take on, we challenge all believers at Congregational Bible Church to be Missions Minded.
-Pastor Mark Scialabba