When you look at the numbers, our North American Mission Board in 2013 claimed 2342 missionaries, plus 3514 chaplains and 1255 student missionaries. The International Mission Board in 2014 claims 4816 missionaries. That totals just shy of 12,000 missionaries working in various locations.
I 100% believe we need missionaries like these serving on the field in various locations, and that we should support them through giving to the Cooperative Program and through other streams such as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. This week at First Baptist Adrian, we began our yearly emphasis for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
But I also want to challenge us to rethink the numbers for a moment…
This morning I read day one of John Piper’s Advent devotional: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy (available for free). He wrote about how advent means coming and how Jesus’ coming to earth is all about mission. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save what is lost.”
When we think about Christmas and indeed the entirety of Jesus’ life, it is about God sending his son into the world to be the great Savior-King who rescues his people from their sin. The birth of Jesus marks the beginning of gospel fulfillment. If we have trusted in Jesus as our only hope of salvation and dedicate ourselves to follow him as the only Lord, then we have great reason to celebrate.
We have life. We have forgiveness. We are sons and daughters of the living God. We have hope of life beyond life. We have been lavished with grace. We have been made holy and blameless. We have been given (as Piper names his book) indestructible joy.
What cause for gladness!
So what do we do with this great news? Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and Jesus said to his followers: “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21), and “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
With the good news of great joy, the Savior-King commissions each of us to take this same good news of great joy into our homes, neighborhoods, communities, country, and world.
As Southern Baptist, we boast around 16 million church members (though, we know this is probably no greater than 8 million active church members… still). We need to see ourselves not as a sending people but as a sent people. Our missionary field does not consist of approximately 12,000 individuals; rather it should be 8 million strong with 12,000 specialty missionaries.
As we continue to give to the Cooperative Program and to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, we need to remind ourselves and our churches that we are all called and sent by Jesus on the same mission as his: to seek and save the lost.