The Antioch Factor Pt.3 Who will go?

8 01 2008

This blog series is about to get a little random!!

So far I have shared my reasons for engaging with this subject and the biblical precedent for it in the case of Paul and Barnabas. Now I want to focus on individuals in history who have taken the same step as Carolyn and I (and infinitely more heroic steps to boot). I don’t intend for these thoughts to be chronological but diffuse, diverse and wide ranging. My intention in doing this is simply to show how normal and logical a step it is to move from local church work to global cross-cultural ministry.

The first sample I want to take comes from an individual who is not renowned as a missionary, but a preacher whose acclaim, influence and gifting are without precedent outside of Scripture – C.H. Spurgeon. This great man of God is known for the warm theology, and devotional fidelity of his preaching work in London in the 19th century, and for the far reaching implications that his ministry has had in the lives of preachers right up until the present. One of his most helpful and heartwarming works is ‘An All-Round Ministry’ (the title of which has been used as a joking synonym for rotund ministers ever since!!). This text is a collection of messages which were delivered over a period of years by Spurgeon at his ‘Pastor’s College’ Annual Conference. They are a treasure trove of pastoral insight, keen humour, and deep thinking on the task of preaching.

In the second sermon contained within the volume, Spurgeon speaks on the issue of going forward, challenging those in training for ministry to progress in knowledge, maturity and discernment. As his message closes, Spurgeon turns his thoughts to the work of mission. Looking out on a congregation of men training for the pastorate, Spurgeon’s tone becomes impassioned and laden with the weight of a world which does not know Christ. One can almost feel the intensity of the atmosphere in which these words were first spoken as this great man of God challenges his hearers about the Antioch Factor, the need to consider going cross-culturally to reach those who haven’t heard:

‘Lastly, and here I am going to deliver a message which weighs upon me, GO FORWARD IN THE MATTER OF THE CHOICE OF YOUR SPHERE OF ACTION.
I plead this day for those who cannot plead for themselves, namely, the great outlying masses of the heathen world. Our existing pulpits are tolerably well supplied, but we need men who will build on new foundations. Who will do this? Are we, as a company of faithful men, clear in our consciences about the heathen? Millions have never heard the Name of Jesus. Hundreds of millions have seen a missionary only once in their lives, and know nothing of our King. Shall we let them perish? Can we go to our beds and sleep, while China, India, Japan, and other nations are being damned? Are we clear of their blood? Have they no claim upon us? We ought to put it on this footing, – not “Can I prove that I ought to go?” but, “Can I prove that I ought not to go?” When a man can honestly prove that he ought not to go, then he is clear, but not else. What answer do you give, my brethren? I put it to you man by man. I am not raising a question among you which I have not honestly put to myself. I have felt that, if some of our leading ministers would go forth, it would have a grand effect in stimulating the churches, and I have honestly asked myself whether I ought to go. After balancing the whole thing, I feel bound to keep my place, and I think the judgement of most Christians would confirm my decision; but I hope I would readily, and willingly, and cheerfully, go abroad if I did not feel that I ought to remain at home. Brethren, put yourselves through the same process. We must have the heathen converted; God has myriads of His elect among them, we must go and search for them somehow or other. Many difficulties are now removed, all lands are open to us, and distance is almost annihilated. True, we have not the Pentecostal gift of tongues; but languages are now readily acquired, while the art of printing is a full equivalent for the lost gift. The dangers incident to mission ought not to keep any true man back, even if they were great, but they are now reduced to a minimum. There are hundreds of places where the cross of Christ is unknown, to which we can go without risk. Who will go?’

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