By Greg Mundis
Dec. 2, 2012
More than 30 years have passed since my wife, Sandie, and I were new missionaries preparing to go to Austria. I clearly remember going to churches to share our call and hearing people say, “Isn’t Austria the home of the Vienna Opera and skiing in the Alps? Are you really being a missionary if you go there?” Even in the late 1970s, the prevailing perception of a missionary usually involved a person wearing a pith helmet and carrying a machete on the way to a forgotten village in some remote jungle area.
I sometimes struggled to reconcile people’s perceptions with what God was leading Sandie and me to do, but I never questioned God’s plan for us. His call was so clear and strong that we had no doubt about it. He had called us, and we were willing to go where He led.
The word missionary does not appear in Scripture, but the concept of being “sent” is embedded throughout the New Testament. In John 20:21, Jesus told His disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (NKJV, emphasis added). Acts 8 tells how the Holy Spirit motivated Philip to leave a revival to share the gospel cross-culturally with the Ethiopian traveler. Later, in Acts 13, the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas for the work the Holy Spirit called them to do.
Being sent is a divine partnership between God, the missionary and the church. The apostle Paul was called and set apart by the Holy Spirit, but he was sent by the church in Antioch. After every missionary journey, he was faithful to report to the church concerning what God had done. He understood his accountability and responsibility to those who sent him.
Being sent also involves ministering cross-culturally. Paul went to places with their own unique cultural context. He was able to minister effectively because he knew Greek — the common language of the time — as well as Hebrew and Aramaic.
Effectively touching the heart of a people involves learning to speak their heart language. When Sandie and I arrived in Austria, we enrolled in language school to learn German. I still remember my language teacher saying that there were two signs that a person fully grasped a language: when he dreamed in it and when he prayed in it. I found that comment interesting because my teacher had no relationship with God. Still, she understood the intimacy of language and its relationship to issues of the heart.
While the source of our sending is God, the means by which missionaries fulfill their call is dependent on those who commit to stand beside them in prayer and financial support.
Several aspects define the missions-sending structure of the Assemblies of God.
• We are a church-based agency that is accountable to a wider fellowship.
• We have a clearly defined function within our church body.
• AG World Missions comprises a network of districts and churches that missionaries can rely on for prayer and financial support.
The mission of AG World Missions is reaching, planting, training and touching in order to fulfill our purpose: “so all can hear.” Within these parameters, we are responsible to discern the call of God on people’s lives and determine whether that individual call fits our corporate mission. We want to be flexible and understanding in hearing people’s hearts and dreams. But we also have a standard to uphold regarding those we send to represent the Lord as part of our Fellowship.
AG World Missions is not a clearinghouse that approves and sends everyone who comes our way. Rather, we are an agency that recognizes the call of God, our responsibility to the harvest fields of the world, and the role of stewardship that we have been given.
The church’s mission is to go into all the world. Our early leaders affirmed that biblical command. Missionaries today are serving in 242 countries, territories and provinces worldwide. The majority of AGWM personnel serving with International Ministries live stateside, yet their ministries have a worldwide impact.
Some people question why AG World Missions assigns missionaries to stateside-based ministries. There are several reasons:
• From an economic standpoint, it is better stewardship for some of our agencies that support missionaries worldwide to be based in the United States.
• A large percentage of missionaries in stateside-based ministries have extensive cross-cultural experience and travel regularly outside the United States.
• Most of these missionaries are multilingual and understand the cultural context of those to whom they minister.
Others ask why we don’t require missionaries to go to particular places. They note that 86 percent of the nearly 7,000 unreached people groups in the world have never had a personal witness of Christ. Why don’t we send all missionaries to these places of need?
Simple responses are inadequate for such complex questions, but these elements play key roles:
• Many of these people groups live in areas that are inaccessible with an American passport.
• A growing number of countries have visa restrictions regarding Christian workers.
• Missionaries serving in countries with developed national church fellowships often have an impact on people who are yet unreached. Missionaries with AG World Missions currently work in partnership with 4,800 missionaries from around the world. The vast majority of these missionaries are from fellowships and Bible schools where our missionaries are filling key roles that include training believers in theology, missiology and cross-cultural contexts.
• Although a country might be considered “reached,” the national church fellowship may not be developed enough to carry out its mission to evangelize and disciple without help. Our work in those places is to help strengthen and encourage believers to reach their own people and beyond.
The Assemblies of God has existed for 98 years. We marvel to see what the Lord has done during those years. The group of 300 people who gathered in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has grown to more than 65 million people worldwide. Any sociologist would ask, “How has this happened?”
Explanations would include sound missiology, a resourced missions agency, and initiatives that have been implemented. But when you boil it down, you have to acknowledge the Spirit of God and His strategy at work among leadership and individual missionaries. We acknowledge our dependence on the Spirit’s leading and continually ask, “Lord, what would You have me do in this particular context?” The result is national churches and global institutions birthed by people who follow the leading of the Spirit in the strategy of the Spirit.
Missionaries — God’s sent ones — are the backbone of the work of AG World Missions around the world. They are in place with their knowledge of culture, customs and language to be used by the Lord to bring in the harvest. They do us, their sending church, a great service in fulfilling the Great Commission. They deserve our support, our prayers and are our highest priority for financial assistance.
GREG MUNDIS is executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions.
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