“Thus I [says the Apostle Paul] make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,
‘Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand’.”
~Romans 15:20-21 (NRSV).
Those overseas, ministering in foreign lands, may not have many of the material luxuries those in Western lands might take for granted. But it’s the lack of Christian fellowship-on-tap they may readily miss more. It is easy to forget that this was Paul’s world—out to the nations and preaching the gospel (when he wasn’t making tents).
Paul was not called to overt discipleship evangelism (though he must have engaged in this by his character as he plied his trade) but, in his context, a red-blooded and full-on evangelical approach; that for which the time dictated. None of the known world had any inkling of Christ and the message of God’s grace to the Gentiles.
Again, Paul’s Boast – The Holy Imperative
It is an inspiration to us that Paul’s boast was only in Christ Jesus—anything that was achieved in Jesus’ name via signs and wonders; he had every reason to write and preach boldly (Romans 15:14f).
It’s clear that the Apostle to the Gentiles had God-anointed standards to uphold. His patch was anywhere God called him to that had not yet been preached or reached. Captivity was the only thing keeping him for the goal: more lives for Christ. And even then the Bible records Paul speaking, singing and preaching of Christ and him crucified to guards and prisoners alike.
It’s rather humbling to think that Paul would need to explain his boldness. But, as we know from his experiences with the Corinthian church, he often copped it in the neck for not being ashamed of the gospel. Our contemporary missionaries face the same challenges.
A Brave Task
The evangelical mission abroad is a brave task. It’s only the work of the true called. Saving short-term mission trips—which are great for turning ignorant perceptions back to truth—there is great deal of gargantuan challenge in tackling the international mission field.
I’m so often ignorant of this; blind to the real struggles of those friends I know who are evangelising for God in places like South Thailand,
Sure, I read the newsletters and I do pray, but it’s easy to feel very inadequate. Still, that is not God’s will.
There’s the temptation to justify not being called to the international mission field, but in reality we’re either called to it or we aren’t. Still, part of the rationale in resisting something that seems totally foreign is fear. Admired, in a strange and misunderstood way, are those to be, who tackle this work in Jesus’ name.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.