by Dr. Patrick Johnstone
There is a price…
The Physical Price
Early missionaries who evangelized the coasts of West Africa rarely lived long enough to learn the local languages – let alone long enough to return for a second term. A coffin was an essential part of their equipment.
The 20th century has been more peaceful and healthy for missionaries in many parts of the world, but this is now changing. International terrorists, drug runners, robbers and even humanistic anthropologists have found missionaries soft targets. And the health risks have increased as well. Missionaries face virulent and resistant strains of malaria and hepatitis and the deadly AIDS virus. They have no supernatural guarantee of a healthy old age if they serve the Lord in another climate and land.
The Mental Price
The new generation of first-term missionaries is more likely to go to the field married. Are they willing to sacrifice themselves and their children? Are missionary families prepared to live in a tin-roofed little house on the edge of the Sahara with temperatures reaching 120 degrees?
Will they be able to cope with living far from the conveniences of education and companionship of children of the same culture? Are they willing to endure long separations from husband, wife or children for the sake of the gospel? Are we going to find enough pioneers who are prepared for the mental anguish that comes from seeing our families suffering because of the call God has given?
I remember standing at the grave of a little girl in Sumatra, Indonesia. One of our missionary families had left their daughter’s body in a distant land for Jesus. I am not speaking against marriage and family life on the mission field. Nor do I suggest we must sacrifice our families for the ministry. What I want to stress is that if we are going to see the world evangelized the will of God must come first, whatever the implications for us.
The Cultural Price
We are the “instant” generation. We look for quick solutions. Yet the Lord Jesus had to earn the right for 3 years of ministry through 30 years of manhood. Without missionaries becoming one with the people to whom they minister, how will they ever earn the right to communicate the gospel?
Earning the right takes time – 7 to 10 years by my estimation. Some missionaries never last that long. Sacrificing our way of doing, being and living is hard. When I was a missionary in Africa, some Africans would say, “That missionary loves us, but those others don’t.”
The Financial Price
We get too hung up on money and fund raising. Yet funds are important. The cost of the missionary enterprise is far higher than a home ministry. If the job is to be done, we will need to see a far greater concern and commitment of funds for the spreading of the gospel than we have ever seen. I am amazed at the naïve and thoughtless attitudes of the average Christian about the origin of mission funds. I wonder how much more would have been achieved for world evangelization if the money poured into church towers around the world had been sent to mission causes.
We can be thankful that we are actually talking about finishing the task: it could happen. My plea, though, is that we be realistic about what it is going to cost us – cost me! WE will never reach our goal without a concerted mobilization of the people of God on an unprecedented scale. Let us join together, deny the attitude of our materialistic culture and be willing for the price that must be paid if the world is to be finally evangelized.
Dr. Patrick Johnstone is deputy international director and director of research for WEC International, England. This article first appeared in World Evangelization, Pasadena, Calif.