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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. ...

Room for You

By Randy Hurst
Aug. 7, 2011

Our worldwide mission mobilizes the entire church. This has been true for so long that it’s easy to forget to appreciate our uniqueness.

In the 1970s while Ruth and I were preparing to serve as missionaries in the Samoan Islands, I did graduate work in the history of missions at a large Lutheran seminary. Researching a variety of missionary agencies gave me a much greater appreciation for the missionary movement in which I grew up.

I took four courses taught by a superb missions historian who had served as a missionary for 34 years — first in China and then in Japan. He spoke four languages and had earned three doctorates, a Th.D. and two Ph.D.s, one of which he earned while in China.

On several occasions we talked about missions in his office. When I acquainted him with Assemblies of God missions, he was fascinated. Surprisingly to me, what impressed him most were Speed the Light and BGMC. As I mentioned them in passing, he interrupted me and exclaimed, “You mean your children and youth are involved in missions?” I explained that the youth raised money to provide vehicles for all our missionaries, and the children saved money in little wooden barrels to provide other missions resources. He was amazed.

Engaging Youth

At the height of World War II, Ralph Harris assumed leadership of the AG national Youth Department. One of his greatest desires was to see students involved in missions. As a result, Speed the Light was born in 1944 with the purpose of providing transportation and communications equipment for missionaries.

Over the past  67 years, teenagers have sacrificed time and finances to raise more than $253 million for missionaries in 217 countries and territories around the world.

AG youth are helping missionaries fulfill the Great Commission more effectively through transportation, radio, television, printed materials and equipment for evangelism. But the ministry serves an even wider purpose. STL also mobilizes young people and gets their hearts and minds engaged in missions. In doing so it raises up messengers — future missionaries who will touch the world not only through others, but also personally by taking the gospel to multitudes lost in spiritual darkness.

Connecting Children

Five years after Speed the Light began, AG leaders launched BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge) to meet literature and translation needs abroad.

Small wooden barrel banks served as individual collection containers symbolizing the barrels missionaries used to pack their goods for shipment to the field. Children put their pennies, nickels and dimes into the miniature barrels and returned them once a month for the BGMC missions offering.

BGMC’s founders recognized that if children are to grow into missions-minded adults, they must be taught about missions in their formative years. The first BGMC offering, received in October 1949 at the New York/New Jersey girls camp, totaled $9.35. No one imagined back then that BGMC would one day receive millions of dollars in offerings annually as it does now.

As with Speed the Light, BGMC does more than raise funds. It also prepares children’s tender hearts for missions. Most AG missionaries gave to BGMC regularly as children.

Mobilizing Women

From the beginning of the Assemblies of God, women have served prominently in missions.

The 1914 General Council minutes state that women “are called to prophesy and preach the gospel” and could “be ordained, not as elders, but as evangelists and missionaries.” In 1935, the General Council stated that women “may be ordained to the ministry of the gospel and may serve either as evangelists or as pastors as their qualifications warrant.” I believe this change was made because, serving as missionaries and evangelists, women had planted so many churches that the Fellowship acknowledged that they should be able to pastor them.

Many decades before the current social pressures concerning women’s equality, women were playing an integral role in proclaiming the gospel and establishing the Church around the world. Of our current missionaries, 54 percent are women.

Greater Flexibility

While women were always accepted as missionaries, the same was not true for single men. For many years, a firm rule restricted single men from serving as missionaries.

Two additional policies further limited opportunities for missionary service. Individuals generally were not considered for missionary appointment if they were over age 35, nor were couples with more than two children. In the early years, sound reasoning prompted these restrictions, but the World Missions Executive Committee found it increasingly necessary to make exceptions to such narrow policies. When John Bueno was elected executive director of World Missions in 1997, he immediately revised the missionary approval process.

Since these changes were enacted 14 years ago, many people who would not have been approved under old policies have entered missionary service with great effectiveness. The ministries of missionaries appointed in their 40s, 50s and even 60s have played a crucial role in establishing Christ’s Church around the world. Their experience and maturity provide vital leadership in countries with maturing national churches.

The Spirit knows who He needs in the harvest field and where He needs them. Changing times and circumstances require new methods to meet today’s challenges.

The Power of Network

Unlike many missions organizations that focused on certain parts of the world, early Assemblies of God leaders committed themselves to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” Their boldness was astounding. How could a group of 300 Christians even consider attempting to preach the gospel in all the world? They knew it could only be done if they worked together.

We give glory to God and have respect for our early leaders who helped set the course of our mission. With their obedience to the Word and the Spirit, God has raised up a missions network now numbering 335,000 churches and 63 million believers in 217 countries and territories. No worldwide evangelical fellowship has more churches or believers partnering to proclaim the message of Christ and establish His Church. And none has mobilized missionaries, national leaders and believers to touch as many of the least reached.

Because of this great network, even a small Assemblies of God congregation in America can make a worldwide impact by helping reach people with the message of Christ, plant churches, train leaders, and touch the poor and suffering with the compassion of Christ.

Assemblies of God World Missions offers an ever-growing network dedicated to serving the Lord’s cause, where your life can count and make a difference for Christ in the world.

Divine Guidance

God’s guidance and care are evident in missionaries’ lives.

Some years ago missionary David Grant was traveling in India. Exhausted after preaching several times a day for many weeks, he scheduled two nights and a full day to rest in the city of Trevandrum.

Early in the morning he was awakened with the compelling urge to travel to Madras immediately. Obeying the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, he woke the missionary in whose home he was staying to tell him he was leaving for the airport.

A couple of days later, the hotel manager where David was staying stopped him in the lobby. “Mr. Grant,” he said, “I remember that you arrived before your reservation. Why did you come one day early?”

“Why do you ask?” David asked.

The manager replied, “Have you seen the newspaper? The front-page story is about a flight from Trevandrum to Madras that crashed into a mountain with no survivors.” It was the flight on which David Grant was scheduled to travel.

The Key to Guidance

God’s guidance hinges on one essential prerequisite: we must choose to surrender to His will.

Examples of this principle are found throughout the Bible. Proverbs says that after we trust God with all our hearts and acknowledge Him in all our ways, then He will direct our paths.2 The prophet Jeremiah declared that God has a hope-filled plan for our lives — but only when we search for God with all our hearts.3

If we are not surrendered to God, we will not understand His will no matter how intelligent we might be. Jesus taught that spiritual understanding depends on first being willing to do God’s will.4 Seeking God’s will only as an option to consider will not result in receiving His guidance.

Our relationship with God is a “covenant,” a contract between Him and us. Our part of the contract is initially blank, but God continually fills it in throughout our lives. We can totally trust in His faithfulness to fulfill it completely.

The key to divine guidance is surrender.

The heart of the issue in accomplishing God’s will is individual obedience.

Opportunities to help fulfill the Great Commission are abundant. Greater means of communicating the gospel are available now more than ever before.

There is room for you in AG World Missions — if you are divinely called and are qualified.

Over the years some missionary qualifications in our fellowship have changed. But some will never change — because they are determined by our Lord.

God uses a wide variety of educational backgrounds, occupational skills, interests and even hobbies to prepare people for missionary service in unusual circumstances. He leads people into fields of interest and expertise that may seem to have no connection with ministry, yet they are part of His plan in preparing them for His service.

Missions is not merely an opportunity for adventure seekers or those who simply want to travel to exotic places. Missionary educator J. Herbert Kane wrote, “It is correct to say that every Christian is, or should be, a witness. It is not correct to say that every Christian is a missionary.”

To be a missionary is to engage in the mission of Christ himself. Jesus said to His first disciples, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Henry Martyn went as a missionary to India in 1806 and died in Persia in 1812 at age 31 after translating the New Testament into three languages. He wrote, “The nearer we get to Christ, the more intensely missionary we must become.”

Each messenger of Christ must make personal sacrifices. Anything that hinders us from accomplishing the mission to which the Master calls us must be overcome. All three Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ directive that whoever follows Him must deny himself and take up his own cross.

Denial of “self” can mean sacrificing life goals, personal ambitions and even friendships. For some it will mean placing careers and life dreams on the altar of consecration to Christ and His plan.

Adoniram Judson, the great pioneer missionary to Burma in the 1800s, wrote that the kind of missionaries needed are those who are “willing to take the lowest place, to be the least of all and the servants of all ... who live near to God and are willing to suffer all things for Christ’s sake, without being proud of it.”

A dying world waits for the gospel. Four billion people have never had an adequate witness of salvation in Jesus Christ. How will you respond? If Jesus is calling you to be a part of His mission — and you are willing to pay the price — there is room for you.

1. Acts 2:17,18
2. Proverbs 3:5,6
3. Jeremiah 29:11-13
4. John 7:17

RANDY HURST is communications director for AG World Missions.

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