Our Far-Flung Mission Line
November 29th, 1970 @ 7:30 PM
OUR FAR-FLUNG MISSION LINE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-29-70 7:30 p.m.
And while we are thanking God, we will thank especially the dear Lord for our choir. About two-thirds of them are out eating turkey somewhere, or getting over it. But oh, they sing great, and we praise the Lord for them.
I cannot help but express amazement at the presence of Christie Poole here tonight. I thought you were in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. What in the earth are you doing here? I tell you. I look forward to seeing you after the service is over. He was the founder, is the founder, and the only president for these years and years of our Baptist seminary in Nigeria, located in Ogbomosho. I went over there and visited him one time; an unforgettable experience. It sure showed me that God never intended that I be a missionary. Oh dear! Sleep under a mosquito net every night, and all of that goings on over there: you have to love God to leave this country and leave your family and friends, and go over there and put your life with those people. But the Lord blessed him, and they have one of the finest, most flourishing works for Christ in the whole world in Nigeria. Christie, is that preacher Ojani still alive? Ojani? Ajani? He’s the best interpreter I have had in the whole wide world. He would get into the spirit as I preached, and when I thundered, he’d thunder; when I’d beat the pulpit desk, he’d beat it. Oh! I’ll never forget Ajani. Oh, that fellow had a fervent spirit! And he encouraged me. And put both of us together, I’d encourage him, he’d encourage me, and it wasn’t long until it sounded like a whirlwind going on up there. Oh, the Lord bless him and give him length of days.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Far-Flung Mission Line. This week is our week of prayer for foreign missions, and our Lottie Moon Christmas offering to support the missionary in his gospel message around this earth.
Now read with me – and we’ll all turn to it in the Bible – the Book of Acts; the first eight verses of the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Acts chapter 1, the first eight verses. Share your Bible with your neighbor; and if you are listening on radio, get your Bible and read it out loud with us, Acts chapter 1, the first eight verses. Now all of us reading it together out loud:
The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
Until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen:
To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
If this church is a New Testament church, and if a church is a New Testament church, this is its assignment: "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem," our Dallas, our city, "in Judea," our state, our Texas, "in Samaria," our nation, our America, "and to the uttermost part of the earth," wherever men are lost and need the gospel of Christ. This is our mission line: it is everywhere; in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to every people and language and tongue and nation in the earth.
There was a time when the mission frontier was across the sea. It was in the isles of the ocean, it was in Africa, it was in China, it was in India. But today the mission frontier is down every village street and almost crosses every threshold, for we fight against a tide of paganism that is almost overwhelming. I can hardly believe the change that has come in our own beloved native America.
For example: in 1908, in Northfield, Massachusetts, there was held a convocation of the student volunteer movement of America. Across the front of that tremendous auditorium where the convocation was held, there was this placard, this tremendous banner: "The Evangelization of the World in Our Generation." It was a tremendous challenge and commitment: the winning to Christ of all the people of the whole world in that one generation. That meeting was presided over by John R. Mott and Robert E. Spear, two of the great missionary Christian statesmen and strategists of the earth. And in that day, in 1908, there was a vibrant, aggressive, quickened student mission volunteer group on every college campus in America. I’m not speaking of just church-related institutions, or Christian colleges, I am meaning all of them. Every university and college campus in America had on it in that day an aggressive and a vibrant living student volunteer movement.
Today, the movement has ceased to exist. It has no being anymore. There are no student mission volunteer groups on most of the campuses of the universities and colleges of America and of the world. And not only that, it is not proposed to have revival meetings, or the presentation of Christ on any college campus, whether it is Christian church-related or state-supported, with few and rare exceptions. The floodtide of paganism and heathenism has literally washed away and destroyed the student mission volunteer movement and the great challenging revivals that accompanied it.
That floodtide of blasphemy, and rejection, and unbelief characterizes every facet of the life of every modern nation on the face of the earth. I heard a Scotsman say not long ago, that if the erosion in the church of Scotland of the last twenty years continued for the coming twenty years, that twenty years from now Scotland would be as pagan as it was when Columba left Iona to evangelize it. Do you know when Columba left Iona to colonize, to evangelize the Scot people? It was in 550 AD. When I go to Scotland, as you, there are not two percent of the people that go to church. When I go to England, as do you, there are not two percent of the people that go to church. When you got through the nations of Scandinavia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, there are not two percent of the people that attend church. And the same is true on the continent of Europe. The floodtide of paganism, heathenism has swept the entire earth.
I have gone by, in some of these nations that I visited, some of the most impressive, tremendous seminary buildings that architectural genius could erect; and they are vacant, they are empty! The seminaries have closed down; there is not a student in them, there is not a faculty member in them. The seminaries have died. I have visited Southern Baptist seminaries on foreign fields that had one student. I have visited Southern Baptist seminaries on foreign fields that had four students. There is a floodtide of paganism, of heathenism that has swept the entire earth, and America is among those nations that is living in a time of unimaginable apostasy!
Now, as I think of it, with its concomitant of crime, and violence, and riot, and disobedience, and blasphemy, and rejection, and immorality, and a thousand other things that degrade a people, I think, "O dear Lord, I wish that I could withdraw, go away, live some other place, or take with me these godly and sainted people that I know in this dear church, and just blind my eyes to the rest of the world; let it go by. If it dies in its own dirt, and filth, and sin, and violence, and iniquity, let it die! I would like to separate and withdraw from it." Sometimes I have feelings like that: live my own life away and apart. I cannot, nor can you. As Paul wrote in the Book of Romans: "No man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself" [Romans 14:7].
We are inextricably bound up with all humanity on this continent, and we cannot escape it. The same planet that we ride on around and around that sun is the same planet they ride on. And the same earth in which we shall be buried, they are buried. And our lives are interdependent and interrelated and we cannot escape it. There is a common denominator to all humanity that brings us all together, all of us, all of us. You can’t forget and shut off, push aside any group of people in the earth, for we are bound up together in one great humanity.
I never heard – that I know of – of Vietnam. If I ever read anything about Laos or Cambodia, I don’t remember it. But I am conscious of it now. I flew over it about two months ago, and I looked at Vietnam as I flew over it. I never saw a living soul. It looked like an interminable expanse of mountain and jungle to me. When I asked about it, they said that’s true: it is a vast jungle, and populated just in certain areas. And that stretch of forgotten land in a nation I never thought of has been more in the forefront of the cultural, and political, and economic, and financial life of America than any nation in the earth, right now. And who ever thought of it in these days passed? We cannot escape that interrelatedness and that interdependence in which God has cast our life and lot on this globe and in this earth. However they are and whatever they do, they affect us, and our family, and our people, and our children.
Beside that they are people for whom Jesus died. Wherever they live, whatever their culture, whatever their color, whatever their state in life, they are souls for whom Jesus died. And our great assignment is, we are to be witnesses unto the Lord in the city, Jerusalem, where we live; in Judea, in the state to which we belong; in Samaria, in the nation of which we are citizens; and to all of the families and peoples of the earth.
How can I do it? The world is so vast and its millions are so teeming and multiplied. How can I do it? I have no other choice as I face the vast interminable assignment of the mission enterprise of the earth, I have no other choice but to seek to join hands with my sister churches and together try to bring the saving message of Christ to the nations and peoples of the world. That is our united, joined, prayer of intercession at this season of the year: we, and all of our sister churches, beseeching God’s blessings upon His testimony here and abroad. Wherever the missionary, or the evangelist, or the emissary of God names the name of Jesus, God bless him and the message that he brings, uphold his hands and give him souls; joining hands for the saving of the world.
Do you remember in Life Magazine – and I cancelled my subscription to that thing years ago. And when I go home I will wash out my mouth; but I am a chiseler, I read it in the barber shop every week. Do you remember some time ago? There was a double-page picture in Life Magazine of a vast wheat field in Kansas; the undulating land and that tall, rich, ripened wheat field. And the story of the picture was this: in this Kansas home, out there in that vast wheat field from horizon to horizon, there was a little boy about four years of age; and the little fellow had strayed away from home and was lost in that vast wheat field. The mother and the father searched frantically for the little fellow, and couldn’t find him. And when the neighbors heard of it, they searched with the weeping father and mother, and couldn’t find that little boy. He was just like that, and the wheat was so high, they couldn’t find him. And the days passed, and they couldn’t find him. And a neighbor said, "Friends, let’s join hands and comb this field back and forth." So the neighbors joined hands, a great stretch across that vast wheat field. They joined hands, and they combed that entire vast wheat field. They found the little boy, but he was dead. And the picture in Life Magazine was the father standing over the still, silent form of that little boy, and he cried. And this was the caption of the picture: "Oh would God we had thought to join hands before!"
That is a poignant picture of the whole world and us. One church, even though it is as great and as able as this First Baptist Church in Dallas, one church is so small in a world that is so great. We need to join hands together with our sister churches in prayer, in supplication, in giving, in asking God’s blessings upon our missionary enterprise. That’s why we need the denomination: one church can have a Sunday school; but if we are to have a great Sunday school movement, we must have a Sunday school board. One church can have a revival meeting; but if we are to have a great evangelistic movement we must have an evangelism department. One church can send out a missionary; but if we are to have a tremendous missionary movement, we must have a missionary board. We must join hands together. The ministries that are so vital in our modern world cannot be answered or provided except as we join hands with our fellow Christians and our sister churches.
I don’t know where it was, but way, way back somewhere in Japan, they took me to preach at a government complex. There was no missionary, there was no church, there were no Bibles – this was in 1950 – there were no hymnbooks, there was no Christian literature, there were no schools, there was nothing, way, way and away in a big government complex. I had a tremendous crowd of people there. And as I always did, when I preached I gave an appeal. And those that responded, I gave a little card to fill out, a commitment card, taking Jesus as Savior. And one of those Japanese men who could speak English came forward, accepted the Lord as his Savior, took the card; he sat down, as they would do crossing their legs, then he arose and came to me, and said, "Sensei – teacher – sensei, if I sign this card, then what? If I sign this card, then what?" Oh, that has burned in my memory for these years since, "If I sign this card, then what?" There was no church, there was no pastor, there was no Bible, there was no Christian literature, there was no hymnbook, there was no school, there was no anything, "If I sign the card, then what?"
We need so many ministries as we face a world that washes us out, that overwhelms us, that drowns us in a floodtide of modern evil, and unbelief, and rejection, and paganism. We need the ministries of a tremendous Christian brotherhood. And that’s what we are: we are a part of a worldwide community. We are a part of a nationwide intercession. We are a part of a phalanx that has set itself to make the name of Christ known to the whole earth. And as such we dedicate ourselves to the tremendous enterprise of world evangelism. We are a missionary church. We are an evangelistic church. And our heart is as wide as the world is wide, and our commitment is as deep and as high as the love of God in Christ Jesus.
To me – and with this I must close – to me it is the highest privilege of life to know that I belong to a world communion and a world fellowship; that when the sun sets upon us, it is rising on our emissaries across the sea. And that when we rise to work in the witness for God, our missionaries are resting in sleep preparing for another great day to witness to the grace and love of our Lord. We belong to Jesus, and Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.
So many times, when I go to a place to preach, they will put me in a motel. They don’t build many nice hotels anymore; and outside of big cities they haven’t built any hotels at all. So they take me to a motel. There I am stuck on the edge of town – they’re always on the edge of town – without a car, just way out there by myself. Well, upon a day, I was stuck out on the edge of this city, so I walked around, just looking around, just walking around, just walking around. And while I was walking around, I came across a little doll house of a church. It was the smallest, tiniest, littlest church I’d ever seen in my life. I walked over and tried the door. It was open. And I walked in. I put my hand on the ceiling like that. I raised my hand, I touched the ceiling. It seemed to me I could almost touch the walls on either side. It was the tiniest little church. I went up to the pulpit, and I stood in the pulpit and looked at it. And I thought, "What kind of a church is this, this little, tiny church, out here on the edge of town?" I noticed on the wall a placard, and it had pictures on it. I walked over and looked at it. The pictures were pictures of our missionaries, some of our missionaries. And the placard was announcing a foreign mission week of prayer. And underneath was the name of the church, the little church, and the times of intercession. You know, I just stood up in that little church, and I thought, "This little band belongs to the greatest company of God’s saints in the earth, so little, so tiny, so small, but their prayers, and their gifts, and their intercessions, and their influence reaches out to the very ends of the earth.”
As I stood there, I thought in my heart, "I’d rather belong to the church of Jesus Christ than to belong to any other organization in God’s world." The church, “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25], and in His church, Christ witnesses to and ministers to the lost of the world. I belong to it. I thank God that in His grace He led me to believe in Him and to share my life with God’s people. I love them here; someday in heaven I look forward to sharing the joy and bliss of heaven, world without end, with you and our fellow saints, and Christians and brothers and sisters in the whole earth. What a fellowship! What a joy divine! We belong to the household of the saints, and our faces are turned toward the evangelization of the families of the earth.
What a tragedy, were we to love these abroad and not our own; that they might be saved, and you lost. May God speak to us, to you; and may God find in your heart an answer tonight. Will you say yes to Jesus, will you? In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, "Tonight, I’m giving my life to the Lord, and here I am." Or a whole family of you to come, "Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children, and we’re all coming tonight, the whole family of us," or just you. As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, in the balcony round, you, in the press of people on this lower floor, you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make the decision now. Decide for God now, and in a moment when you stand up to sing, stand up coming. And the Lord bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.