Jesus and Foreign Evangelism
While our Lord was limited in his ministry to the land of Israel (Matt. 15:24), he nonetheless did leave home and go to other places to preach and teach God's word. In light of this there are a number of lessons he teaches us that apply to foreign evangelism.
He accepted the hardships involved. After leaving home, Jesus had "not where to lay his head" (Lk. 9:58). Also, the endless journies that were a part of his ministry to the house of Israel must have been tiring (e.g., Jno. 4:6). While we recognize that there is nothing wrong with a preacher staying in one place (1 Tim. 1:3) and having a place in which to live (Acts 10:6; 21:8; 28:30), Jesus' example is instructive when applied to foreign evangelism. One who decides to spread the Gospel somewhere far from his home, especially in a foreign land, must take some hardship for granted. This would include not only separation from home, but having much of the work load on one's shoulders, the lack of some familiar services and products, and living in a strange land, sometimes among people who speak another language. While there is a danger of exaggerating these hardships (they can sure make good stories to tell!), one need only consider them at face value to see that it would be much easier to simply stay put in the relative comforts of wherever we call home. Accepting hardship is not something that should be shunned or shrank from. Sacrifice was the spirit of Christ's ministry and we are called to be living sacrifices to him (Rom. 12:1; cp. Phlp. 2:17).
He accepted the hardness of some "soils" (Mk. 3:15). It does not take much reflection to realize that, in the life of Christ, this hardness was not only manifested by such incidents as the one found in John 6:66. Jesus faced increasingly hostile resistance to his efforts to teach the Gospel of the kingdom (Mk. 3:6; Lk. 11:53-54; Jno. 8:58-59). I am unaware of any preacher in this day who has faced such dangers. Indeed, the threat of deportation is the severest form of resistance common (and it is not very common) to some foreign workers. What this all boils down to today is the recognition that zeal for lost souls, while a necessary requirement, is not all that is needed for one who would take the Gospel to a foreign land. He must be stedfast, patient and able to endure hardship (1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Tim. 2:3,24-26). Disappointments will come no matter how prepared or diligent the worker (Jno. 6:66; Acts 17:32). There are prayers appropriate for such times (Lk. 6:28; Eph. 6:18-20) as well as Psalms of encouragement to read. We simply must accept these things and endure them as best we can.
He exemplified the importance of a good knowledge of the scriptures. Jesus did not seek to "win friends and influence people" nor did he exemplify various popular psychologies. He clearly taught God's will and was "prepared to give answer" to convict the gainsayer (Matt. 12:22-36; 22:15-40). It cannot be emphasized enough that we have nothing to offer anyone except the Gospel and our lives in harmony with it (1 Tim. 4:16). Paul learned at the feet of Gamaliel before learning the Gospel and exhorted Timothy to "Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Zeal for the lost is good and dedication in the face of hardship commendable, but these will not overcome a deficiency of knowledge of the word of God. The same scriptures which so beautifully show Jesus' ability to rightly use the word of God show the dangers of using human reason. His enemies' arguments may have sprung from ready and careful minds, but they were not based on the scriptures (Matt. 19:3-9; 22:15-33). Man of God, whoever you may be, let Jesus be your guide in this and accept that, though you will never equal him, his example is the one that must lead you in your efforts to reach lost souls. Study your bible!
Love drove him on. Love brought Jesus into the world (Jno. 3:16) and it clearly motivated him as he fulfilled his ministry. He exemplified his teaching of Matthew 5:43-48 and 22:34-40, even to the point of praying for those who put him to death (Lk. 23:34). By contrast, brethren are in enough danger of being motivated by such things as love of preeminence, party spirit and vain glory for the Lord to have warned us about them (3 Jno. 9; Phlp. 2:3). If we are not driven by the same impulses as Jesus we will do more harm to ourselves, and possibly to others, than good. Whereas, if we truly love God and others, we will be led by the proper motives in our studies, decisions, and work. In this case, we will be following Jesus.
While Jesus may never have left the borders of his native land he nonetheless amply equips by his example those who aspire to do so. He shows us that such work is serious business, not to be undertaken lightly or without preparation, and that his example of love must be continually born in mind. Jesus is the example for many who have not yet preached in foreign lands but may be able to do so. Hopefully, this article will be an encouragement for them.
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For comments to the author, or to contribute news, reports, and information regarding preaching efforts in foreign lands, please contact Steve at email@example.com
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