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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

A Spirit-Driven Mission

By L. John Bueno
Dec. 5, 2010

The Assemblies of God is Spirit-driven. God gave our forefathers spiritual wisdom to guide the emerging missions program of our Fellowship and follow the injunctions of Scripture to establish national churches around the world. This involves not only reaching out to the lost of our world but also training and mentoring men and women to perpetuate the process of world evangelization.

Over the years some have criticized our missions methods. Many modern missiologists think we should be more deliberate in determining where our missionaries are sent. They believe we should place missionaries in areas of greatest need determined by studies, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them to their areas of service. While focusing on the neediest areas has merit, the scriptural record of the first-century church and the life of the apostle Paul offers even greater guidance.

During Paul’s second missionary journey he purposed to go to a specific area only to have his plans interrupted by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 16:7-9  says: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (NIV).

When Paul obeyed the Holy Spirit’s prompting, he found fertile soil for the gospel. Acts 17:11 says: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

These Scriptures bring up one of the most important aspects of missions today: listening to what the Spirit is saying. Where are the receptive hearts? Where is the ground ready for the Word? This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also pray for and concentrate our efforts on areas where the soil is hard and unproductive, but we must be aware of areas where people are open and ready to accept the proclamation of the gospel, just as Paul was. When Paul obeyed the Spirit’s leading, he found that the Bereans were eager to examine the Scriptures. They were eager to receive from God.

Another aspect of our present-day mission involves being aware of Satan’s schemes. He is much about the work of detaining the progress of the gospel. Paul acknowledged this in 1 Thessalonians 2:18: “For we wanted to come to you — certainly I, Paul, did, again and again — but Satan stopped us.”

Not much is said about spiritual warfare by modern missiologists, but missionaries — even those in the United States — regularly face spiritual battles. We need to be sensitive to these issues and never depend solely on human knowledge and abilities in dealing with the intense spiritual battles of our day. Instead, we must be equipped with the Holy Spirit’s power and wisdom to withstand Satan’s schemes as he tries to hinder the progress of God’s kingdom.

So what does all this have to do with modern missions?

In places where scriptural principles were enacted, the Assemblies of God is experiencing wonderful success. National churches are flourishing and sending thousands of missionaries to areas the U.S. missionaries cannot reach due to limited resources or cultural and ethnic barriers.

For many years our missionary pioneers invested in the lives of men and women who now lead mature churches that are reaching out to the ends of the earth. More than 5,000 missionaries sent by our fraternal national churches are serving in  other countries, fully supported and directed by their own missions agencies. We maintain dialogue with these fellowships so our efforts can be coordinated to achieve maximum benefit.

God is guiding both missionaries and national churches to move into “the regions beyond.” The Holy Spirit is guiding these efforts and inspiring men and women to answer the call and devote their lives to this purpose. In many nations this is happening at an accelerated rate as God honors the prayers and obedience of our forefathers as well as today’s national church leaders who are following the Lord’s leading.

To accept all of the modern approaches to world missions is sometimes tempting. It would be easy to sit in an air-conditioned room somewhere and map out strategies and talk about issues and theories. But the pattern followed by our early Assemblies of God leaders shows that the greatest growth takes place when men and women follow the leading of the Spirit according to scriptural principles.

Obviously, missionary placement in the Assemblies of God is not a free-for-all in which anyone can go or do as they please. There is wisdom in the multiple counsel of leaders. This truth is reflected in the New Testament Church when the brethren in Jerusalem were consulted on issues the apostles faced as the Church took root. Those early leaders had the flexibility and wisdom to let the apostle Paul and others follow the prompting of the Spirit rather than confining them to a strict, unyielding approach.

For nearly 50 years I have been privileged to be a part of this great missionary Movement. I have seen the wisdom of our early leaders as they faithfully followed the guidance of the Spirit, and I am convinced that this same kind of obedience is needed to reach our world today.

God understands all things and knows the beginning from the end. If we trust Him and allow Him to lead us, we will see even greater growth in the days ahead. We must not attempt to manipulate God or determine how He should accomplish His plan. Our responsibility is to wait upon Him — to be led by His Spirit and guided by His wisdom to reach those who still don’t know Christ.

The New Testament Church is a clear model of how to merge the entrepreneurial spirit and efforts of missionaries and the wisdom of the brethren in Jerusalem who served as spiritual guardians. When these two entities could come together with united purpose and declare, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” they proceeded to make the right decisions (Acts 15:28).

Leadership plays a vital role in guiding the missions process. As the Spirit prompts individual hearts, He knits that call to the hearts of those whom God has placed in charge of the affairs of His church. The result is an effective missions program.

Not long after I became executive director, I sensed the need to focus more specifically on our work in Europe. The post-Christian spirit evidenced there has made it one of the most difficult areas of the world for the gospel. In the years since, the number of missionaries answering God’s call to Europe has grown from 295 to 452. As the Holy Spirit directs us, He will be faithful to place people in areas where they are needed.

In 2000, we formed the Northern Asia region to bring greater focus on the 1.3 billion people living in China. Serving in Northern Asia involves many limitations, but through the Holy Spirit’s power we have found ways to do so effectively.

Nearly a century after the Assemblies of God was founded, we are seeing the results of a dream God put in the hearts of our missionary pioneers. As we continue to seek God and trust Him, I believe He will continue to guide and direct us in this process as He calls His servants to serve Him in other lands. An exciting day for the Church is ahead as we work together to fulfill the Great Commission.

L. JOHN BUENO is executive director for AG World Missions.

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