Not every Christian is a missionary. Not all missionaries are Paul-type pioneer missionaries. Some missionaries will teach the reached, others the lesser reached, and some the unreached. Paul was a pioneer missionary. Are you fit for such a task? Here are five (initial) questions to ask yourself.
- Do you believe the unevangelized will go to Hell?
You’ll have less motivation to evangelize the lost if you believe the unreached will receive God’s mercy on judgment day. Paul preached: “The times of this ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Paul knew that everyone stands guilty before God (Rom. 1:18), not because they have rejected the Gospel but because they have rejected God’s truth in creation (Rom. 1). All men are “inexcusable” (Rom. 2:1). Those who do not trust in Christ will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9).
- Has God called you into pioneer missions?
Not everyone is called like the apostle Paul. On the Damascus Road, God told Paul that his ministry was not just to the religious Jews but to the unevangelized Gentiles (Acts 26:17). On another occasion, Paul called condemnation upon himself if he did not preach the Gospel among the Gentiles (1 Cor. 9:16).
The story of Paul’s calling was told three times in the book of Acts alone. It motivated him to go farther and farther among the unevangelized. Every pioneer missionary must at least have a deep burden to see untouched lands reached for Christ.
- Are you married?
Paul preferred that some Christians remain single (1 Cor. 7:7,8), not because singleness is more spiritual but because it’s more practical for certain kinds of work. Paul knew time was short (1 Cor. 7:29). The single person lives without concern and worry for their family and thus is able concentrate solely on the things of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32).
Because a married person uses much of his time caring for his family, in this sense, he is at a disadvantage in the ministry (1 Cor. 7:32-34). God often uses married couples for pioneer missionary service. He did with Paton, Judson, Carey and most other pioneer missionaries. But he also uses unmarried, single-focused missionary too, like St. Paul, Henry Martyn, Amy Carmichael and James Gilmour. The latter group had several advantages in pioneer missions. Know these categories well. Know yourself.
- Do you take initiative?
Initiative is both a gift (1 Corinthians 12:5,6) and a character trait (Romans 12:11; “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit…”). Paul had lots of drive. Initiative is the ability to take the first step with a plan or activity. People with initiative are not afraid to go first and don’t need to be told what to do.
When famine came, Paul started a collection (1 Cor. 16:2,3). When Peter mistreated the Gentiles, Paul told him he was wrong face-to-face (Gal. 2:11). When false teachers entered the church, he kicked them out (1 Tim. 1:19,20). When the jailor was about to kill himself, Paul quickly told him to stop (Acts 16:28). When the ship captain made a wrong decision about sailing, Paul told him to change his plans (Acts 27:9).
Initiative is essential in the life of a pioneer missionary. It was a character trait that made Paul successful.
5. Are you brave?
First Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (NKJV). The ESV translates it more literally, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” These translations teach us that there is a close connection between bravery and manhood. Paul was a man. Paul was brave.
Wimps won’t last long as pioneer missionaries. After Paul was nearly stoned to death by his enemies, he got back up and walked right back into the city where his enemies stood (Acts 14:20). When Paul was in prison, only one man had the power to release him: Felix. Yet when Felix came to hear Paul preach, the apostle had the courage to preach about self-control (Felix was living immorally) and hell (Acts 24:25).
Not all missionaries are pioneer missionaries. Pioneers go to new places. They go to lesser reached lands. A Christian considering pioneer missions should start with these five questions. There are more questions to consider. Those will come tomorrow.