By Keith Green
This article originally appeared in The Last Days Newsletter in the Fall of 1982, formerly entitled: “Why You Should Go to the Mission Field.” It was Keith’s final message from the Lord.
An Introduction By Melody Green
I want to encourage you to read the following article by Keith with an open heart. It was completed only a few days before Keith and two of our children, Josiah and Bethany, went home to be with Jesus in a fatal plane crash. The following message was a real expression of the fresh burden the Lord had put on his heart. As Keith explains, this is so much more than “just another article.” It was something that the Lord had put burning in Keith’s heart and was to be his new emphasis of message to Christians – especially those Christians in America.
I know that most of you are aware of the fact that Keith’s message, almost from the start of his ministry, was “get right with God!” He wasn’t very shy about preaching it, and I know that because of his boldness many hearts opened to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and the reality of God. Keith wanted to see every Christian totally sold-out to the Lord.
I believe the vision for missions is a completion of Keith’s message for Christians to really be right with God. The question is this – once you are right … then what? Do you sit around in your “rightness,” or do you seek God’s direction to see how and where you can be used most effectively for the Kingdom of God? What the world is dying for is hundreds and thousands of believers who are determined to see the lost find out who their Creator is before they stand before God on that great and awesome day.
I know it would be Keith’s greatest desire (aside from the salvation of the lost) for you to take this matter seriously before the throne of God. If you will lay all your personal goals at the foot of the cross, and ask Jesus what He wants you to do with your life, then I know Keith’s burden from the Lord will be born your heart – and carried to the ends of the earth.
- Melody Green
Part 1: The Call of the Lord
A Biblical Look At the Missions Call
I recently returned from visiting some overseas missionary bases, and I must say that since returning, my life has not been quite the same. The vision and goals of our ministry have suddenly changed. The Lord definitely did something to my heart on that trip. Besides showing me how small my vision had been, He began to give me a great burden to see the ranks of His army on the field swell!
One of the greatest things God opened my eyes to was how tremendously evangelized my own country was, while the rest of the world was barely being reached. As I traveled from country to country, I thought of the millions of people I was passing through who needed to have the Gospel of Jesus shown to them in a real way – and yet there was hardly anyone there to reach them.
As I visited each mission base, I spoke with different missionaries, and picked up various pieces of literature that told the story of the Kingdom of God. As I read the statistics, I was shocked – I really had never known how little the need was being met!
When I returned home, I got hold of some of the leaders of different missionary organizations and set up some meetings to find out more about what was being done to fill the need. After these meetings, I decided to do a study of God’s Word (to see what He had to say about reaching the lost in other countries), and I also read through some more of the missions literature I had been given.
This article is the result of that study, and also a burning desire in my heart to see 100,000 young people released to the mission field.
So … why should you go to the mission field?
1. Because Jesus has told you to go.
“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
With these words, Jesus made it clear exactly what His disciples were to do – they were to spread His teachings in His name, preaching salvation unto the ends of the earth (Romans 10:18). If you consider yourself a “believer,” then you must consider yourself a disciple of Jesus – no less called and chosen than the very first 12 Apostles.
There are no “first class” Christians and “second class” Christians – every believer is called to spread the Good News about Jesus to those who have not yet heard. Jesus’ command is definite and clear – it is His great mandate, His “Great Commission” to the soldiers in His holy army. We must go, because our great General has commanded us to go.
2. You should go because the need is so great.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Matt. 9:37-38).
Ever since Jesus first spoke these compassionate words, the supply of workers in the fields of soul-harvest has always been horribly low. But today the need is the greatest it has ever been in the history of mankind. Remember, Hell is not just for the weekend! More people are alive today, and more souls are at stake, than the total number of people who have ever lived on the face of the earth in all of human history! This simply means that we can populate either Heaven of Hell by our obedience or our laziness.
There are over 2,700,000,000 people who have never heard the Gospel at all, and there are only 5,000 to 7,000 missionaries worldwide, working directly with these totally unreached people.1 That means there is approximately one missionary for every 450,000 of these people! There are over 16,000 different and distinct cultures and people groups – even whole countries, where not one single church is in existence.2 There are 7,010 distinct living languages, and 5,199 of them still have no Bible of Scripture translations available in their own language!3
Do these figures move you at all? Does it matter to you that an estimated 80,000 unsaved people die every day (approximately 3,333 every hour … 55 people every single minute!) to face the judgment seat of Christ?4
3. You should go because so few Christians are obeying the call, making the need even greater!
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ … how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:17,14).
Right now worldwide there are probably 85,000 workers on the mission field – working mainly among those who have heard the Gospel before.5 This figure includes missionaries from all over the world of every nationality.
When you compare this number with the staggering amount of Americans selling Avon or Amway products, it is staggering. Just in America alone there are over 435,000 Avon sales people6 (with 1,280,000 worldwide), and over 750,000 Amway products distributors7 (with over a million world wide)! Do you realize that these two companies combined have 14 times more representatives in the United States alone than the Church of Jesus Christ has in the whole world outside of America?
And what about the Christian representatives we do have in the world? Only 9% of the world’s population speaks English, and yet 94% of all ordained preachers in the whole world minister to the 9% who speak English. And 96% of all Christian finances are spent in the United States on 6% of the world’s population. Only 4% of all Christian money is spent on missionary efforts to reach the other 94% of the world’s population!
There are over 1,000,000 full-time Christian workers in the United States; while over one half of the world’s population (3 major groups – Moslem, Hindu, and Chinese), 2,200,000,000 people, have only 2,417 full-time Christian workers.8 As you can see by these figures, something is definitely wrong. While we in America have approximately one worker for every 230 people – those who have never heard the Gospel even once have one worker for every 450,000 souls!
Please forgive us Jesus, for being too timid to obey You and reach out into all the world like You have commanded us to!
4. You should go because God gives special anointing and grace to those who leave their own land, people, and culture to do God’s will and spread the Gospel.
“And the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your own country and from your relatives, and from your Father’s house … and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall also be a blessing; and I will bless those that bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’‘(Genesis 12:1-3).
Abraham is only one of the many people in the Bible who God used mightily only after he left his own people, his own land, and his own culture. Look at the travels and ministry of people like Jacob and Moses – both of whom had to go into other lands to learn from God and be used by Him.
No matter where you look in the Bible, God always gave a great anointing and blessing to those who served Him in a foreign land. Look at Joseph and Daniel. They were the only two men in the Bible who God raised up as successful, secular officials in foreign and heathen cultures – and they remained faithful witnesses and servants of God to the very end, and often at the risk of their very lives!
What about Jonah? He was a good example of someone who didn’t want to go to the mission field and preach to heathens! Stubborn, rebellious, and selfish – and yet God “made him an offer.” (I pray that God would freely move like that in all our lives, “helping” us to make the right decisions about going).
And then there’s the Apostle Paul – who had such a burden for his own people and his own country, Israel. Oh, how he would have loved a ministry among the Jews! But what did God say? “Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). That’s what God commanded, and ‘go” he did. Never was there a missionary like Paul. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 11 if you’d like to see a list of his qualifications: beatings, imprisonments, stonings, mobs, shipwrecks, the list goes on and on - and so did Paul, obeying his Master who bought him.
From Noah to Abraham, from Moses to Jonah, from Daniel to Paul, God has always given a special blessing to those who, leaving the comforts of home and relatives, cross the boundaries of their little worlds to bring God’s message and blessing to the nations.
Remember Jesus’ words about this subject, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town” (Matt. 13:57).
5. You should go because America (and some other western nations) is literally drenched with the Gospel, while most other countries and cultures of the world do not have any continual, relevant witness at all.
“And thus I aspired to preach the Gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is written, ‘They that had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand’” (Rom. 15:20-21).
It is so true that we here in America are continually bombarded with Christian witness and ministry. Almost at every turn there’s a billboard or a bumpersticker proclaiming something about Jesus. Turn the dial on your radio at any time of the day or night, and you’ve got non-stop preaching. There are several Christian satellite and cable networks. And there are over 250 different Christian magazines and publications. In most cities there’s a church on almost every corner.
I am not trying to say that this is all bad – a lot of it is good, winning many souls to Jesus – but as I’ve traveled overseas, it is hard for me to believe that it is God’s will for there to be so much Gospel preaching and literature available here, while there is comparatively little or even none in many places outside of this country.
The world is going to Hell on every continent! Is it God’s fault that so few are hearing the Gospel – or is it the Church’s? Aren’t we who love Jesus accountable to reach our generation with the Gospel? A friend of mine has written, “This generation of Christians is responsible for reaching this generation of sinners.” If this is true, then each one of us must take a good, long look at our lives and priorities – finding out where God would have us begin to get ready to go!
6. You should go because, as Oswald J. Smith said, “No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice, while there remains someone who has never even heard it once.”
“But if our Gospel be hidden, it is hidden to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
Has it occurred to you that Jesus wants every creature to hear the Gospel? If you had 20 children to feed and plenty of food to feed them all with, do you think it would be right to give 3 of the children 10 meals, 7 children only 1 meal, and the remaining nothing – causing them to die of starvation? That’s exactly what we’re doing with the Gospel in the world today!
Because we believers are so deaf to God’s call to go into all nations, we keep most of God’s resources to ourselves! We keep feeding and reaching the same people over and over again. I am not saying that there should be no Gospel preached in America, I am saying that there needs to be a spreading out of the soldiers of God, to fight the enemy where his greatest strongholds are – “where Christ is not named!”
7. You should go because the Holy Spirit is speaking to Christian leadership all over the world that it is God’s desire for there to be a great final missionary thrust with the Gospel before the end of the age.
It is His desire that every people should have the Gospel preached to them, and that the Gospel should be published in every nation and in every language. And unless YOU get involved personally, there is no hope of that ever happening in our generation!
“And you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matt. 24:14).
“The Lord is … patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Is there any doubt in your mind that God wants everyone to be saved? If you believe this, and you really love Jesus, then WHY are you so timid about getting involved in this great thrust to bring the Gospel to all the nations? Do you think that while you’re reading this, God isn’t grieved that His Church is being so lazy and disobedient about fulfilling His commission? He knows that you agree with the Scriptures, and He’s listening to every excuse you’re turning over in your mind like, “Yes, I know that more people need to go … but He just couldn’t mean ME! I’m … I’m just not the missionary type …”
The Most Commonly Heard Excuses
The following objections are just a few of the many that Christian groups and missionary societies constantly hear from prospective recruits for the mission field. Although many may be merely excuses, we have heard them spoken so many times as serious statements from well meaning Christians in response to the question, “Why don’t you get trained to go into full time Christian service in a foreign country?”
1. “But I’m not called.”
You don’t know how many people I’ve met who have said to me, “Keith, I agree that more people need to go to the mission field, but I’ve never heard God tell me to go.”
Well, the truth is that God has already told you to go in His Word. In fact, He commands us to go … “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That’s right … YOU ARE CALLED!
In fact, if you don’t go, you need a specific calling from God to stay home. Has God definitely told you not to “go” somewhere outside your country to preach the Gospel? If He hasn’t, then you’d better start praying WHERE to go, instead of IF you should go – for again, you’re already called!
2. But God needs people to stay here to be a witness to those lost in America. There’s enough need right here!”
It is true that God has called some people to stay right where they are to be witnesses for Jesus in their daily lives and professions. But again, God is merciful and just. Since America has only about 5% of the world’s population, then only about 5% of the believers would really be called to stay in this country as a witness (that’s only 1 out of 20) while the rest of us should go into the parts of the world where there are almost 0% believers. (In Albania, for instance, there are only “a handful” of known believers in the whole country of 2.7 million people – less than 1/2 of 1/1000th percent!!)9
3. “But God needs people to stay home and financially support those ministries and missionaries who are already all over the world. In fact, my church is already supporting some missionaries with my tithes and offerings.”
You should never have to worry about there not being enough Christians staying home to support missionaries! There will always be enough people around who will not answer the call to go – who will stay home and gladly just send a check (instead of themselves) to reach the lost. After all, nothing is easier to give than money (except nothing!)
This does not mean that everyone who stays home is selfish and disobedient. As I’ve already said, there are some who know they are definitely called to stay, and they are doing exactly what God would have them do here, while they greatly support other ministries. I’m just saying that there will always be plenty of people around to financially support the pitifully few who answer the call and obey God.
4. “But my family and friends would frown on me going.”
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me …” (Matt. 10:37).
God is very clear about whose approval we should seek. It’s shocking to me how even Christian parents react when their children say that they’d like to go for training as a full time Christian worker. “A missionary! Are you crazy?!” It’s as if they’ve announced they’d like to be a thief or a prostitute.
It is true that God wants us to honor our parents and love our friends, but He has also made it clear in His Word that this honor and love must not exceed our love and obedience to Him and His calling on our lives. We should always try our best to explain God’s call to our families, lovingly and patiently, but the bottom line must be that we will obey Christ no matter what the cost.
We should always try to get our family’s understanding and blessing when God makes our ministry clear to us, but we also always must be ready to leave “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms” for His sake “and for the Gospel’s sake” (Mark 10:29).
5. “But I need to stay here and lead my relatives to the Lord first. If I go somewhere else, how can they get saved?”
There once was a man who wanted to follow and obey Jesus, but he said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus’ answer to him was, “Follow me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:21,22).
This may sound cruel of Jesus no to allow the man to have a funeral for his dead father – but most likely, the man’s father had not yet died. The phrase “wait until I bury my father” was sometimes used to say “wait until my father has died.” What he was really saying was, “I’d like to follow You now, but You see, my parents wouldn’t understand. Please wait until after they’ve died and then I’ll be more than happy to follow You!”
Jesus’ answer was appropriate … “Allow the dead to bury their own dead.” In other words, “allow unbelievers to take care of themselves and follow Me!” Jesus doesn’t want us to throw our usefulness away because our relatives are not yet saved. The greatest witness they can see is you fully obeying the call of God on your life.
Jesus didn’t want this man’s father to be buried – He wanted the young man to follow him, and then may be even the man’s father would come to know Him too. Obedience is truly greater than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22) – when we obey God, He takes care of all our other obligations (Matt. 6:33).
6. “But I need to get an education first.”
I don’t believe that God wants every Christian to go to college just because, “Well, everyone goes to college now, unless they’re too dumb!” You shouldn’t go to college unless God has definitely called you to go. Just like everything else in our Christian lives, He’s the Master, we’re the servants. He’s the General, we’re the soldiers. If you’re really a Christian, you’re at the beck and command of the King. If you’re not at His command, then you’re really not a Christian.
Yes, God does call some people to go to college. Sometimes it’s to get training for a ministry He’s made clear to them. For instance, if you know what country you’re called to, perhaps God would lead you to learn the language and culture somewhat before you go (although the very best place to learn is within the country itself – it’s a definite “crash course!”)
Of course, another reason God might lead you to college is to minister to people right there on the campus – as well as to mature emotionally and spiritually. But be careful! Make sure you’re there in direct obedience to God, or else you’re wasting your time – and His.
7. “But I need to get married first, and then my mate will want to serve God full-time on the field rather than me going alone.”
Nothing could be a more foolish reason for putting off obeying God now. God does not want you to look for a husband or wife, He wants you to be married to Him, and trust Him for any mate He may bring into your life. I know of many single Christians serving Jesus overseas who are trusting Him for everything. And some of the most beautiful stories of God’s grace I’ve ever heard are told by couples who went to the mission field single, and then God led them to marry another whose heart was also fully devoted to serving Him there.
Remember, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:8). Trust Him!
8. “But have a family to support. God doesn’t want me to neglect them, does He?”
The Word of God says, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
If you can trust God for your needs, you can certainly trust Him for your family’s needs. You would never be foolishly “neglecting” your family’s needs by obeying God’s call to go. God will show you the way. I know of so many families – some with many children – who are on the field right now, trusting God for their needs while they minister in His name. I have never heard of ONE occurrence where God didn’t meet the needs of one of His servants and their families. As King David said …
“I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or His descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends; and his descendants are a blessing” (Psalm 37:25,26).
9. “But the mission field is dangerous. God would not have me put myself or my family in danger of disease or native hostilities, would He?”
“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3)
It is all a matter of our priorities – do we look at the temporary or the eternal in making our choices? It’s true that you will probably be in more physical danger on the mission field than you would be in the suburbs in America, but that is part of the cost that we need to count when it comes to serving God. The question should not be, “Will I be kept safe wherever I go? but rather, “What is on the Lord’s heart for me to do?”
If Jesus decided to go the way of least pain, He would have never gone to the cross. There is no place of greater blessing for you than in the center of God’s will. You must stop to count the cost, but remember one thing – the privilege of serving God always outweighs the price!
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s shall save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
10. “But I could not afford to get the training, and raise the necessary finances to place myself (or my family) on the field.”
Don’t worry, God will help raise the money you need. Wherever God guides, He supplies – even if it means helping you get a job! Problems and worries about finances are usually only a surface excuse when it comes to obeying God to go. In your heart you know He’ll make a way for you!
11. “But I don’t have any special talents or abilities that would qualify me to be a missionary.”
Then you’re just the person God is looking for! Sure God can use nurses, teachers, accountants, and mechanics on the field, but it always blesses God to greatly use the one who seemingly has nothing to offer. It is this person who has the opportunity of purely representing Jesus in the endless “common” tasks that are part of the daily life of the missionary. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10; also 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
12. “But how could I commit myself for four years to go to the field without having a chance to see what it would be like?”
It is true that in past generations a foreign missionary had to make almost a lifetime commitment before he could go to the field. In most cases, he had to go to college for at least four years, and then seminary for two to four years before he could even begin his missions training and service. But today there are missionary organizations that have short term programs for people who want to receive training and find out what serving God in other countries is like. These programs last from a few weeks to a few years in length. So now there is an opportunity to “take a look” before making a much longer commitment.
13. “But God wants me to stay in this country and prosper. The reason the rest of the world is so poor and unconverted is because their heathen religions and idolatry have caused them to live in ignorance and poverty, without God’s blessing.”
This has to be THE most selfish reasoning I’ve ever heard for not going – and I’ve heard it! Of course they live in ignorance and poverty, that’s just the very reason you should go – to bring the enlightenment that comes from knowing the truth about Jesus, and to bring them the true riches of knowing Christ. If you don’t believe that the reason God has blessed you with an abundance in this country is so you can be a blessing to others – then you have never understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ! “Freely you received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8).
14. I’m just not ready to make that kind of a sacrifice and commitment.”
Ah! That’s just the point. That’s probably the underlying reason for almost every one of the above objections. In fact, you might just as well have said, “I’m not willing.” You need to decide whether or not you are a disciple of Jesus – that is the question. If you are His disciple, then “you are not your own … you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
And if you truly love Him, then you will not feel bondage, you will feel incredible excitement at being chosen to represent Him in the world! To be a servant of Jesus Christ, an ambassador, a missionary, is the highest calling a man or a woman can attain to!
Now what are you waiting for??
This article was reprinted with the written pemission of Last Days Magazine. “Why You Should Go to the Mission Field” copyright: 1982, 1985 Last Days Ministries, Box 40 Lindale TX 75711-0040. All rights reserved.
If you would like additional copies of this article, please write to Last Days Ministries at the above address and ask for LD#43. If you would like a gift subscription to The Last Days Magazine, please send your request to the same address.