Missions and Churches
Thanks for praying for my trip to Ukraine (and please continue praying for our sisters who are currently ministering in a restricted country). Before the trip I wrote here about Matthew 9:38 - that we would pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. This command was reinforced for me in Ukraine, in this way: the local church sends out the laborers. This may seem obvious, but it has great ramifications for how we “do missions”. Churches are to be the means by which God answers the prayer of Matthew 9:38. Seminaries are only assistants to this task - they produce botanists to work in the greenhouse. But the greenhouse grows the laborers. The apostle Paul based his ministry on this assumption. This is how he could say in Romans 15 that he had “fulfilled the gospel of Christ”, “from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum”, and that he “no longer [had] any room for work in these regions” (v. 19 and 23). He’s not saying that he preached the gospel to every person in those regions. No, he shared the gospel with many, and then after a church formed, he moved on. The local church would remain as the continuing witness to Jesus Christ in that region. The laborers for that harvest in that field were to come out of that local church.
So there is evangelism that is leading-edge, among peoples where no church is to be found. We want to send dollars and people into this endeavor. And then there is evangelism among people where there is a church presence, but nurturing and support is needed. This too, is important, but it is different. In Ukraine’s present economy (and in many other unevangelized countries), two or three faithful locals, if they can be found, can be supported at one-tenth of what it costs to support one American missionary. The key phrase there is “if they can be found” - thus we pray Matthew 9:38, and thus we might send dollars and/or people to help raise them up. But regardless, the aim of our prayers and dollars is the local church, either to be created or to grow.
In the class I taught, probably 18 of the 20 students had been saved in the last 24 months, all under age 30. Christ is providing laborers for his harvest. The thought causes me, and I hope you, to pray for such a harvest here.