It is astonishing how aggressive the early church was in her missionary efforts. In his seminal work of 1792, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, William Carey marveled at the spread of the gospel in these early years. He writes:
Peter speaks of a church at Babylon; Paul proposed a journey to Spain, and it is generally believed he went there, and likewise came to France and Britain. Andrew preached to the Scythians, north of the Black Sea. John is said to have preached in India, and we know that he was at the Isle of Patmos, in the Archipelago. Philip is reported to have preached in upper Asia, Scythia, and Phrygia; Bartholomew in India, on this side the Ganges, Phrygia, and Armenia; Matthew in Arabia, or Asiatic Ethiopia, and Parthia; Thomas in India, as far as the coast of Coromandel, and some say in the island of Ceylon; Simon, the Canaanite, in Egypt, Cyrene, Mauritania, Lybia, and other parts of Africa, and from thence to have come to Britain; and Jude is said to have been principally engaged in the lesser Asia, and Greece. Their labours were evidently very extensive, and very successful; so that Pliny, the younger, who lived soon after the death of the apostles, in a letter to the emperor, Trajan, observed that Christianity had spread, not only through towns and cities, but also through whole countries.
Christianity Todayhas reported:
That Christianity reached China by the end of the first century has long been dismissed as a myth. Now, says the Chinese People’s Daily, evidence suggests it really happened. Wang Weifan from Jinling Seminary says tombstone carvings from about A.D.86 depict Bible stories and Christian designs.
How astonishing. Christianity reached China by 86 AD? It is truly remarkable. Christianity from its beginning has been a missionary religion. For that reason, prayer support, logistical support, and financial support of missionaries has long been incumbent upon churches. Our covenant reflects this necessity:
As a body of born again believers,
We covenant to become an authentic family by
loving one another as Christ loves us,
praying for one another,
speaking truth to one another in love,
being patient with one another,
protecting one another,
considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We covenant to embrace the whole gospel by
studying God’s Word faithfully,
learning the gospel together in family worship,
giving ear only to sound doctrine,
living out the gospel in our lives,
embracing the whole counsel of God.
We covenant to bring glory to God by
gathering for worship faithfully,
singing to the glory of God,
joining together in fervent prayer,
doing good works to the Father’s glory,
living lives that reflect the beauty of Christ,
giving offerings to God joyfully and faithfully.
We covenant to reach the nations by
sharing the gospel with those around us,
reaching out to the poor and the needy,
praying for the cause of missions in the world,
giving to the financial support of missions
On what basis do we justify the financial support of missions in the world?
Our God is a going/sending God.
Our first step is a theological step. It has to do with the nature of God Himself. It is this:our God is a going/sending God. God is a missionary God! This is evident from Genesis to revelation, though, of course, it finds its fulfillment ultimately in Jesus Christ. In 1 John 4, John writes:
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
The coming of Christ has profound missiological implications because in Christ we find the goingand sending nature of God! God sends the Son…but in the Son God Himself is sent! Our God commissions and fulfills, sends and goes. God “sent his only Son into the world”! This is missions! This is good news reaching the nations!
Paul put it beautifully in Galatians 4:
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Notice the repetition of the imagery of sending: “God sent forth his Son,” “God has sent the Spirit.” What is most significant about this is that it depicts the Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—in missionary terms. The Father sends. The Son is sent. The Spirit is sent. Yes, God is a missionary God!
Let us take a moment and make sure that we understand the full impact of this theological truth. The God who made all that is, who made you and me, is a God who goes and sends. It is in the heart of God to go and to send. I know there are churches that do not go and send, but I daresay that they are betraying the very heart of God by their inactivity! If this going and sending God has taken up residence in our lives and among us as a people, should we not reflect His going and sending nature?
God’s church has, at her best, been a going/sending church.
And, of course, the church, at her best, hasreflecting God’s going and sending nature. It is fascinating to observe how much going and sending happens in scripture!
In the record of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, for instance, the council sends Paul, Barnabas, and others. Paul was already going. Now he is sent.
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers
And then the church sends Paul and Silas out to continue their missionary journeys and efforts.
40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Paul and the others were sent. Paul and the others went. It was in the heart of the church to send and it was in the heart of the church to go!
In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul speaks of sending Timothy to the Corinthians.
17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
Paul sent. Timothy went. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul speaks of sending Titus.
18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
Paul sent. Titus went. In Ephesians 6 Paul speaks of sending Tychicus to the church of Ephesus.
22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
Paul sent. Tychicus went. In 1 Thessalonians 3 Paul speaks of sending Timothy to Thessalonica.
2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith
Paul sent. Timothy went. And in 2 Timothy 4, Paul informs Timothy that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.
One of the truly remarkable things about the records of the early church is the pace of its motion. It was constantly going and sending, sending and being sent. And this makes sense, for the church was the body of Christ, the going and sending God. Let us be sure of this: the church has sometimes sent and gone clumsily. That is true! But a church that is striving to be the church will be a church that goes and sends! The church is a body in constant motion. It is constantly going and sending, sending and being sent!
The financial support of missionaries is simply a recognition of Christians that we worship a going and sending God and that, for that reason, we should hold the rope for our sent missionaries by way of monetary support! Perhaps you physically cannot go, but you can enable others to go! Our budget and our giving should reflect the priority of missions in the spreading of the gospel to the nations. We should be quick to give for the cause of missions!
The church goes and sends because it is the principal means which God has ordained for the lost to hear good news.
Why? Because the missionary spread of the gospel is the principal means which God has ordained for the lost to hear good news. The church, you, is how the gospel gets to the nations.
In Romans 10, Paul makes a beautiful and profound statement about our going/sending God and His going/sending church. He writes:
14 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? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
See the chain of salvation: the lost are saved when they believe…they believe when they hear the good news…they hear the good news because somebody proclaimed it to them…somebody proclaimed it to them because that somebody was sent. God is the one who sends! God’s church gets to join Him in that great sending by supporting through prayer, logistical support, and finances those whom God has sent out. But there is more: the church itself is the sent body! We have been sent by God to carry the good news to the nations! You have been sent by God to carry the good news to the nations. So we do not financially support our sent missionaries in order to pay them to bear witness.No, they are bearing witness because God has called them to do so, not because you are paying them to do so. We are allcommissioned to bear witness. We financially support our sent missionaries so that they can live and not have to worry about financial means in the places where they have been sent! And we must continue to do so!
The going/sending church must hold the rope and support those who are called to full-time vocational missionary work. The beauty of their work is worthy of our diligence in financial support.
15b As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
When we give financially to missions, we are honoring the beauty of their work, the beauty, as Paul put it, of their gospel-advancing feet. We give because we know what it is to be sent. We give because our God is a going/sending God!
I mentioned earlier the astonishing evidence that Christianity had reached China by the end of the first century. In reflecting on his research into carvings of Christian symbols in China from the late 80s A.D., Wang Wei-fan, who was a Professor at Nanjing Theological Seminary, said this, concluding with Romans 10:15:
Eastern Han was the first period in history when many religions were introduced to China. In the Western Han period, Zhang Qian had explored the west and went on the Silk Road to Da Qin which is today’s Syria. It is not difficult to trace the footsteps of the Gospel by way of the Silk Road to Eastern Han, from Jerusalem, Samaria and Syria, through what is today Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Xinjiang, Dunhuang to reach Changan (Xi’an). The ancient Christians had braved the long and arduous journey to reach our land. Therefore with gratitude we say: How beautiful are the feet of those who brought good tidings.
And Christians are still braving the long and arduous journey to reach the nations. Our missionaries have many challenges they face on the mission field, and they face them with courage and grace trusting always in the provision of our missionary God. But church, let us never let lack of funds be one of the challenges our missionaries must face! Let us financially support the cause of missions in the world. In the name of the going/sending God, let the going/sending church support her missionaries!
William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Kindle Location 215-22
Christianity Today. October 7, 2002. p.13. A summary of Wang’s research can be found here: http://www.clechina.org/tombstone-carvings-from-ad-86-did-christianity-reach-china-in-the-first-century/