1999 Protestant Reformed Scholarship Paper.
I have chosen to write my paper about the layman’s responsibility toward missions. At first I wondered how this topic could relate to my hopes of becoming a teacher in the Protestant Reformed schools. Missionary and teacher seemed like two callings without a whole lot of common ground. My initial reaction was dead wrong. A teacher, as well as the rest of the church, has extremely important responsibilities concerning missions. Missionary work is not just the work of a lone missionary trying to save souls in an African jungle; missionary work is the Spirit-guided work of the entire church! The church calls the missionary, sends the missionary, and supports the missionary. Mission work is very much the work of the layman! As laymen in the church, our Christian calling toward missions is to provide physical support, spiritual support, and to witness to the world.
Mission work is an incredible task. The New Testament puts heavy emphasis on this responsibility. The bulk of the New Testament is a record of Paul’s missionary work. This fact alone puts the importance of missions on another level. God has dedicated a huge section of his perfect Word to the topic of missions. In Matthew 28: 19-20, Jesus gave us the “Great Commission” with these words: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” We are called and commanded to spread the good news of God’s Word. What a responsibility! What an honor!
But how can we, as members of the church, assist in this great calling? We can, first of all, provide physical support for our ministers as they carry the Word of God around the world. Missionaries depend on their churches for financial and physical support. As members of the church, we should be generous when it comes to this cause. There are many things we can do to help in this area, whether that be tossing our money into the collection plate, collecting food and clothing, writing letters of support, visiting our ministers on the field, and even traveling with our ministers to lend them a helping hand where they need one. Teachers have the opportunity of working for missions, too, by using their gifts to teach in schools on the mission field. There are limitless ways in which we can strengthen our mission fields.
During one of Paul’s missionary journeys, Aquila and his wife Priscilla took Paul in for a year and a half. They show us how every Christian should act toward the cause of missions. They were caring and hospitable, inconveniencing themselves to assist the spread of the Gospel. We should all have the concern and the love for missions that Aquila and Priscilla had. Answer 55 in the Heidelberg Catechism supports this when it declares “every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.” It is clearly the responsibility of every Christian to use his gifts for the cause of Christ’s mission work.
Our involvement in missions must be more than physical though. We need to involve ourselves spiritually as well. We need to involve ourselves in prayer. Mission work is the work of God. In order to be involved in mission work, we need to have a relationship with God, and the only way we can have a relationship with God is through prayer and Bible study. Both are necessary. God hears our prayers and only God can strengthen our mission fields.
We must always remember to pray for the spread of the gospel. God’s people can be found in every country of this world, and it’s important that we remember that these saints are part of the body of Christ as well. We need to pray fervently for our missions.
Missionaries need our prayers too. In II Thessalonians 3:1, Paul petitions the church: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” Prayer is such an important part of mission work. God is the One who saves souls. Without God, we can do nothing. We need to pray that God will strengthen us and use us as His instruments to help his Word flourish.
The third way we can involve ourselves in missions is to be a godly witness to this world. We are not all ordained and called to be missionaries, but we are all called to be witnesses to the rest of the world. God can use our witness in this world to bring His chosen people to the Church and to His Word. In this way, we are involved in missions too. Our mission is to be a Christian witness. I Peter 3:15 touches on this when it teaches, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” We need to be ready, and we need to be prepared. Every Christian has this responsibility. Preachers must reflect the Gospel that they preach, factory workers must live the life of the antithesis at work, young people must reflect the love of Christ when they are with their friends, and teachers must be a godly example to their students. This is the mission of every Christian. Answer 86 in the Heidelberg Catechism stresses this too when it declares that every Christian must “testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for His blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof and that, by our godly conversation, others may be gained to Christ.”
Missions are one of the most important callings of the church. We must do all we can for missions both physically and spiritually, remembering that God is in total control. As an aspiring teacher, I see an immense responsibility for missions. Physically, teachers can encourage their students to support the needs of missionaries and even teach in the schools on a mission field, providing help where the minister and his family need it.
Spiritually, a teacher should always remember to pray for the work of missions and encourage his students to pray for this work too. Above all, a teacher must be a Christian witness. The eyes of students peer up at their teachers all day long. It is an enormous responsibility, one that can never be done perfectly, but can be done to the best of one’s ability, by the grace of God. May God bless the work of His missions and the godly witness of His saints.