Missions and missionary are not listed in the scriptures, so we don’t have a Biblical definition for these words, but we do have examples we can use to help us understand.
Many look at Acts 1:8, as a definition of missions, and it can be, but I believe it is more. One reason is because when Jesus said this it was not just for a few, but for all who were listening, and for us today.
This to me is a calling for all to be in ministry, and they will minister (preach the Gospel) in different places – some at home, some in other places, some in other cultures, some in other lands – establishing the Kingdom of God. And when you connect this verse with others Jesus said about preaching the Gospel and making disciples, it is our calling as a believer. This becomes our “mission”, our assignment if you will, – both individually and corporately.
One way to separate the parts of our “mission” is by looking at it as having two parts – evangelism (ministry within one’s own culture, or in a similar one) and missions (cross-cultural ministry). We can see this example in the scriptures. The disciples in acts began their ministry within their own culture – evangelism. After persecution began, it forced them to take the next step. In Acts 8:4-5, we see Phillip heading off to a city in Samaria. This was in a similar culture, but was not his own – still evangelism. Then in Acts 13:1-4, we find the first instance of ministry being sent out by the church – missionaries going to other cultures.
So to me, “Missions” means the sending of called ones to do ministry (our “mission”) in a culture which is not their own. Evangelism, is ministry (our “mission”) within one’s own, or in a similar, culture. Missions does not have a definition based on location, but is based on culture.
Our Pastor often talks about seed, time, and harvest. And the principle is so true. You plant the seed, then after a time, there is a harvest. There are a couple of other aspects about this principle that Pastor has mentioned, too. One, is that where you plant your seed, there is a harvest in that field. This is true in the natural isn’t it. I don’t plant seed in my neighbor’s garden and then the crop comes up in my flower bed. That would be ridiculous.
The other aspect is one we have been experiencing in our lives for a number of years now. This one is about naming your seed, or maybe better, calling in a specific harvest. I am not sure about how this is supposed to work, or if it is a combination of faith and sowing. Only thing I know is that has been working in our lives. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.
In 2007 while we were still in Russia, we were encouraged to sow a seed into a ministry in South Africa which had been a blessing to us. They were on satellite, and we really received a lot, much of it life changing. This was the first time we really named our harvest. We gave a special offering for the ministry, and we asked the Lord for our debts to be paid off. This was about February. Later that spring, maybe April, we named another harvest. We asked the Lord about a house of our own. By the summer, all of our debts were paid off. By September, we had been given the house, and in March, a year later, we were living in it.
It really works. But I want to caution you about something. We have realized that this has worked because everything we have asked for was first according to the Word, second it was a need that we had. Rom. 13:8, tells us to owe no man except to love him. So getting out of debt is scriptural, isn’t it.
But what about the house. The main cry of my heart was that I had nothing to leave my children as an inheritance. Prov. 13:22, tells us that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. We were getting older, and it was looking more and more impossible. Plus, we needed a place come to, to rebuild and rejuvenate between our travels. God loves us, and is so faithful. He saw the cry of our hearts, and he answered. We sowed the seed, named our harvest, and God supplied. (Some might say this about the situation: You also sowed a seed when you first began missionary work. Yes, we did sell our house, sold or gave away everything else, and put the money in getting started overseas. But even though we did this, we did not deserve anything! I am telling you that God didn’t owe us anything for it – He just loves us, and is faithful.)
I want to give you one more example of this principle. Last year (April, 2011), we sowed a seed into someone’s life and ministry. And Doris and I agreed that the harvest we desired was to pay off our car, and to be debt free again. So the ones we gave the offering to agreed with us in prayer, and we left it alone.
It is interesting how harvests come into our lives. The two I shared about already came supernaturally, we did nothing but receive them. We would like all of them to come that way, wouldn’t we? But this next harvest was different. I have heard Pastor quote something Pastor Jerry Edmon says. Sometimes the harvest or answer comes in the form of overalls – or work.
Last October, I received a telephone call asking me if I was interested in a contract job beginning in January, that would last for three months. I felt strongly to apply for the position. I didn’t know why, but I went ahead and did it. God knew what was coming. The next few months were going to be full of uncertainty, and we wouldn’t be able make any plans for trips.
I am sure glad the Lord knows everything, and has made provision for it all. Even though we think things are not working – especially when it is not going the way “we think” it should be – we can know for sure that God is working in every situation we are facing. The keys are first to stop “fretting” about it, and then, find where God is working in it. Next, cooperate with Him. Easier said than done! God often works in our life in a way we totally didn’t expect. (Not expecting can be a big problem, can’t it?)
God was working! A couple of weeks into the job, Doris asked me if this could be the answer to our prayer – and it dawned on me – this is our harvest on the seed we had sown to get out of debt. The answer, or harvest, had come in the form of an opportunity we had not expected. I worked from Jan. 6th to April 11th. (Except for three of the weeks). It was an interesting job, and a good, learning experience.
Best of all, after tithes, the income was just enough to pay off all our debts, and get a couple of things for the house, plus some more seed to sow. Eleven months from the time we sowed our seed, the harvest came. In March, we paid off our car (more than three years of payments), and were debt free again. I guess we can call this a supernatural thing, too.
God knew this time of uncertainty about Matthew was coming in our lives – and He used this time to show Himself faithful. Without this debt hanging over us, we now can do more for the Kingdom of God than before. Thank you Father.
I am sharing this with you to encourage you that seed, time, and harvest does work. And if you have a need and ask for a specific harvest, in faith, according to the Word, He does it.
I John 5:14-15, 14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him”.
But also, James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
God knows our heart, and if our heart is pure, our motives will be right. It is a joy to sow seed. Not just to get something, but because we love our God, and want to see His Kingdom expand. But on the other hand, we also can enjoy the results – our harvest!
Seeds have life in them. Through our lifetime many seeds are sown into our lives. Some will produce if we take care of them. Others will die, as they receive no attention. When I was young, a seed was sown into my life that produced a desire to one day see some of the Europe I was reading about in my history books.
One of my uncles fought in WWII and when my family would visit, he would always speak a few words of French and talk a little bit about his experiences. I would go to school and think about the Eiffel Tower, and the Roman Coliseum, Grecian temples and Big Ben etc. So many of the places of history called to me. What would it be like to see all those things?
The seed had been planted but in what kind of soil? My mother had 5 small children in quick procession and she used words that worked to keep us safe but also established some strongholds of fear in my mind. Her only desire was to protect me, but it was so easy for fear to take more territory than my mother ever intended. I was shy socially, and it would take courage to step out, get on a plane and do something about my dream. My life was this safe little box and I resisted every effort to get me out of it. So the seed was planted in ground that would seem the least likely to produce, but it must have found something to grow on because it was still there.
When I was 16, I met Dean Turner at the church we were attending. I guess I caught his eye because he asked one of my girlfriends to introduce him. This tall, blonde guy got my undivided attention pretty quickly and we dated for 2 years. The US was fighting in Viet Nam when Dean graduated and the draft was on. He joined the US Army in the fall of 1969 so that he might have a chance of getting the training he wanted. He got orders for West Germany, we married in March of 1970 and our future path was locked in: Europe!
I’m sure you’ve seen how you can lead a donkey holding a carrot in front of it to get it to move. Well Dean was my carrot! I did get on a plane just after high school graduation and we spent close to 2 years in Fulda, West Germany. We lived in an absolutely beautiful town but because of limits to time and transportation we didn’t travel much. Our oldest son was born there and when he was a little over a year old, Dean got his discharge from the Army.
I think Dean got the seed planted in him during those years. Our experience in Germany had been a good one, and for the next 13 years we were dreaming of going back. Dean was absolutely against going back into the Army and we had no idea of how we were going to get there again. By this time we had 2 boys, we were in our early 30’s and we couldn’t figure out how it would ever work. At the time we had the desire to go not knowing the purpose, but we had committed to following God where ever He would lead. We knew there was something for us over there, we just didn’t know what.
In the early 1980’s, we were going to a church where we had the opportunity to go into Mexico and minister for a couple of weeks one summer. Dean had vacation time due where he worked and we went. We had trouble with the engine on the old bus we drove down there, coming and going. But that trip was like fertilizer/plant food to the seeds that were in us. We were overjoyed to hear there was a chance to go the next year. And the next. We went 3 times. Montezuma’s Revenge wasn’t enough to discourage us. Driving the same old bus that Dean had helped work on every time didn’t stop us. We were in love with God and missions too.
In the fall of 1982 Dean had a dream just before he went to work that shook him down to his toes. It was to him the certainty that God had a purpose for all the desires we were feeling and it was all leading up to Eastern Europe. Ministry behind what was then the Iron Curtain. Talk about being nervous, we were. The thing that helped us was another carrot God held out to us. Our dream of going back to Germany. We could live there and travel in and out as often as possible.
We were finally learning the Godly purpose of the the seeds that were in us. We had a seed that prepared our heart to follow God’s directive to go into all the world and make disciples. We began to search out the avenue that would take us on this journey. Time after time we would hear that we were too old to start out as missionaries, we didn’t have any language skills, no we didn’t fit into their program. But we were sure of our direction and kept trying to find the right door so that we could go and do what we knew we were called to do.
I had a dream one night where Dean and I were talking with some people about Romania. They were going to make a trip there and a voice behind me told me to let Dean go with them. I never saw who was speaking, but my Spirit knew it was God. Not long after that, the Lord connected us with a man at John Osteen’s church who wanted us to help his family who were still in Romania. This was the detail of where we were to go first.
So many divine details were being worked out at that time. One “circumstance” leading to another. The long and short of it was that there was a couple God put us in touch with who lived at Munich. They invited Dean to visit there and see what God would tell him about coming to Germany. At that time we were very discouraged that we would ever get there, but by the time Dean came home everything seemed to be solved. We would go to a city about 2 hours away from Munich and stay with a service member and his family till we could get a place to live.
We had already sold our home by this time. We continued to try to raise support and it seemed to be going instead of coming. Many didn’t or couldn’t keep their promises. One Sunday morning we were in a church that we had not been in before and we were divinely overwhelmed. I don’t know how else to put it. One lady came up to us and told us she had seen us in a dream the night before. Another person gave us a word of prophecy that immediately brought peace and assurance that it was time to leave, no matter what the circumstances looked like. Dean said it was like the gift of faith kicked into action for us. We went out and booked our one-way tickets, sent word to Germany that we were on our way, we packed and said goodbye to family.
On March 8, 1985 we were standing in the train terminal in Stuttgart, Germany waiting on the serviceman who was going to pick us up and take us to his home. As we waited the cold chill of reality tried to set in on us. Here we were with 2 boys, enough money to maybe get us by for 2 or 3 months and no way to get back home. Not enough support to really take care of us after the money we brought with us was gone, and on and on the thoughts would come. What had we done??
It was hard to fight those thoughts off because we were tired and had little defense in those first moments. But we had been praying for months for little details as they came to our mind. When our friend picked us up, he informed us that all our boxes had arrived safely and that some members of the church had given us some furniture to help us get established. We started to get our bearings and Dean applied for a civilian job on the US Army base that would cover any visa regulations and give us some needed income. In looking back we can see that any delay in timing of our tickets might have caused this particular detail to not work at all. At first we were told that there weren’t any job openings available for civilians at that time.
We continued to look for a place to live and we found an apartment over an electrical shop that had just about everything we had been praying for except a balcony. The fact that it was right on the town square and the bus stop was across the street more than made up for that since we didn’t have a car. It would take a good part of our money just to get the other furniture we needed and pay the deposit, etc. But Dean heard God’s voice very clearly to “take it” so we did. We learned later that the newspaper we looked at was the only paper that had the correct information in the ad. We were the only callers and that the apartment had been newly remodeled and had waited empty for us since about the time we had been asking God specifically for a certain kind of apartment.
The weekend we moved in was wonderful. We celebrated every milestone that God had given us victory over and thanked Him that He would perfect the rest of the details. We slept peacefully that night and were woken up the next morning by a loud buzzing of the doorbell. The serviceman was at the door and saying “You’ve got to come now. There’s a job opening you need to see about.” The people at personnel looked at him and his application and said, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you for the last 3 weeks. There is another man who should get this job, but we think we should give it to you.” Three weeks before that we had just been getting off the plane . . . How’s that for God’s timing! I shudder to think how it might have been if we had delayed our flights.
We now had an apartment, a job with visa included, and income to stay more than just a few months. Dean took whatever time he could get to go to Romania and that’s another story of it’s own. But this is how it all started. The seeds flourished and we were officially missionaries now. It was a great beginning.