(Excerpt from Partnership in Missions)
In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said to His disciples, "Come with me, and I will teach you to catch men." In Mark 2:14 Jesus said to Matthew, "Follow me!" Mark 3:13 says, "He called to himself the men he wanted."
Jesus first calls us to himself. He becomes our Lord and Master. Our loyalty is to Him. Our calling is to Him. This is a calling that does not change.
But after Jesus calls us, He commands us.
Once we become His disciples, we are like soldiers. We are subject to orders that can change according to the need. We are to be like the prophet Isaiah who heard his lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?"
Some missionaries feel that their "calling" is to a certain place in the world. "I can't go there," they say, "because I am not called there." Now it is important to know we are in God's will when we "go" in response to His command. Sometimes, however, the need is enough to show us God's will. It is never wrong to witness for Christ, no matter where it is! We are really called to a people rather than to a place. So, we can say that we are called, first of all to the Person of Jesus Christ, and then we are commissioned to go to a people.
We fulfill our call when we pledge our complete allegiance to Christ and submit our will to Him. From then on, we are soldiering ... subject to orders and ready to work anywhere He sends!
This does not mean that His commands to "go" are not specific. Often they are.
Many times it is the missionary's joy to say, "God has spoken to me ... He wants me to work at such-and-such a place." It is also wonderful when a group of spiritual leaders sit with the missionary, pray with him, and together find the place of ministry for him. One is no less of God than the other.
The "Macedonian call" was a "one time" experience in Paul's life ... yet we tend to use it as a model for a call.
Most of the time Paul went where opportunity and need "called." We should be very sensitive to the leading of the Lord, but we should not remain idle when there are souls to be won. We should move toward the need, praying that God will confirm our "going" or indicate another direction. Many times the believer's experience is more one of confirmation than of calling. We move toward need and God confirms.
But whether through counsel or direct communication, commands are subject to change. Such is the life of a soldier. It is only the call to Christ that remains unchanging.
Jesus was the first missionary. "The Word became a human being and lived among us" (John 1:14).
"Of his own free will he gave it all up, and took the nature of a servant. He was born like man, he appeared in human likeness; he was humble and walked in the path of obedience to death; his death on the cross" (Philippians 2:7,8).
What an example! What a perfect missionary! He gave up the glory of His "homeland." He took the attitude of a servant. "The Son of man did not come to be served; he came to serve" (Mark 10:45). He identified with those He came to serve, and lived among them. He was humble and did not expect honor. He walked in the path of obedience to God ... a path that led to self-sacrifice and death!
What Jesus did, He commands all believers to do. He says, "Go into the whole world" (Mark 16:15).
This means that our TASK is not complete until we have included all the world in our vision. Therefore,
(1) Every believer should have a worldwide vision.
(2) Every church should have a missionary program.
So, whether at "home" or "abroad," every believer who is called to Christ should know that he will be "sent" to do a specific work. God has an assignment for every believer. This means that the vocation of a teacher, a clerk, or a farmer should be as much an assignment from God as is the work of a missionary to another land. Every believer should make sure he is working where God wants him. It is not a soldier's privilege to "do as he pleases," and every believer is a soldier!
The believer, the pastor, and the evangelist are as much missionaries as are those who go to another land. Yet, as has been said, "No one has a right to hear the gospel twice when there are those who have never heard it once." Believers who have the privilege of hearing the gospel week after week have a great debt to pay to those who have never heard. That is why we say that every church should be a sending church ... sending missionaries to those who have not yet heard.
In John 4:35, Jesus not only tells us to look, but He tells us what to look at!
Too often we are looking at the wrong things.
We often look near when we should be looking far. We see the need around us and forget that there are greater needs elsewhere. What should we do? Neglect the needs around us? Never! But ministering to needs around us must not close our eyes to needs in other lands. The field is the world!
We often look at the harvested grain instead of the whitened harvest. We like to count baskets of grain already harvested. We look at the number in Sunday school... we count the decisions in a revival... we rejoice in numbers added to the church. But is that what we should be looking at? Shouldn't we rather be looking at the grain still standing in the fields? Can we boast about what is in the granary when the greater part of the harvest remains in the fields?