Our Far-Flung Mission Line/Our Mission Frontier
December 3rd, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
OUR FAR-FLUNG MISSION LINE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-3-72 10:50 a.m.
You who are looking at this service on television and listening to it on radio are with us in spirit, in worship, with the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Mission Frontier. It is a sermon especially preached as we begin the most dynamically, meaningful and emphatic mission week that we have ever attempted in our church. We call it Celebration ’72. And in keeping with the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions and the Lottie Moon Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions, and in keeping with the whole burden of the evangelization of the world, the activities of this week, beginning at four o’clock this afternoon, are advanced.
Our text is in the first chapter of Acts; and our context begins at verse 6:
When they, when the apostles therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
And He answered and 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 Spirit 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.
And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
And thus our Lord is in heaven, waiting until the earth be made His footstool [Acts 2:34-36], at the sign of His coming, when He shall return in clouds of glory with the hosts of the redeemed and the hosts of heaven [Jude 14]. And between that time when the Lord was taken up [Acts 1:9] and that time, the consummation of the age when He returns [Jude 14], the church has one vast worldwide assignment. “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me, in Jerusalem,” our Dallas, “in Judea,” our state, “in Samaria,” our homeland, “and unto the uttermost part of the earth” [Acts 1:8], the witnessing, the evangelization, in the name of Christ, among all the tribes and families and peoples that inhabit the globe.
Any true New Testament church would be found carrying out this great commission. This is our marching order. It is our heavenly mandate. It is our assignment from God [Acts 1:8]. And in the implementation of that Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8], this church has dedicated itself from the time it was organized.
I remember my predecessor, the great far-famed George W. Truett, who was pastor of this church for forty-seven years, I remember his saying at a convention of Baptist people, “Anyone who is not missionary in heart would have no place, nor would he feel at home in the First Baptist Church in Dallas.” That has always been true of this congregation.
It has been missionary first, last, foremost, primary, dynamically, fundamentally committed. We have in our Jerusalem a tremendous missionary program. We have our ministry of missions, a division in this church life that is as fully prayed for and loved as the pastoral ministry itself. And out of our giving we place far more than a hundred thousand dollars a year in the evangelization of our Jerusalem, our city of Dallas.
We have six chapels, among other things, through which we minister to the people who need us. Not just on a Thanksgiving Day or just on a Christmas Day, but every day of the year our church is ministering to the poor, and to the sub-marginal, and to the needy, and to the lost. We have in each chapel a pastor, and our gifts support that outreach; and God has blessed it.
We have a sharing, with the other churches in our association, with a ministry to the whole county of Dallas, our Dallas Baptist Association. Then beyond that, with the sister churches in the state of Texas, we share in the evangelization of our state. There are more than three thousand five hundred sister churches in the state of Texas, and through our Baptist General Convention, we have a part in all of the missionary programs of our state. Then through our Home Mission Board we have a part in the evangelization of America.
There are something like two thousand five hundred and beyond missionaries who work with our Home Mission Board. We have a part in supporting every one of them. And our ministry is to the needy all through the nation of America. Then through our Foreign Mission Board we have more than two thousand five hundred foreign missionaries, and they work in more than sixty-five countries of the nations of the globe. And through our gifts and our praying, we support and work through those blessed and consecrated and endowed and gifted witnesses for Christ.
Our mission frontier used to be in Africa, and in China, and in the isles of the sea; but that is not true anymore. Our missionary frontier now runs down every street, through every hamlet, in every city, in every nation of the globe. It is all one great, vast, needy mission field, all of it, all of it.
I remember a man from Scotland, standing here in this pulpit and saying, he was the president of a Christian school in Scotland. He said in this pulpit here that, if the erosion of the Christian faith in Scotland continues for the next twenty years as it has for the last twenty years, that within twenty years Scotland will be as pagan as it was when Columba left the monastery of Iona to evangelize it. I could not remember when Columba left. I looked it up after his address here in this church. That happened in 550 AD.
It is not only Scotland becoming pagan, it is not only England, it is not only the continent of Europe, it is America. There are two million more unchurched in America now than there was this time last year. And there were two million more this time last year than there was the year before. We are facing an increasingly heathen and pagan world.
On all our mission fields last year, we baptized something like sixty-five thousand. But in those same fields there were more than sixty-five million born. It would take no mathematician at all to project that ratio out through the years that lie ahead. We are facing a literal floodtide of heathenism and paganism. Our world is increasingly dark. It is increasingly anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-church, anti-everything that you and I love in the faith. What we need is several things.
One, we need to remember that our humanity, our whole earth is interlocked and interdependent. As the theme of our Celebration ’72 avows, it is a small, small world. And what affects those people whose faces we have never seen, who live across the ocean in other continents, affects us vitally every day of our lives. There is an interdependence an interlinking, an interconnection of all mankind that we cannot deny and we cannot escape.
I heard of a farmer who found himself in the possession of a secret hybrid corn. And he was proposing to grow it on his place, and to become wealthy by the unusual productiveness and fecundity of his hybrid corn. He tried it by himself, keeping the secret to himself, but his crop failed. He tried it again, and he tried it again; and each time his crops failed. Upon a day, his wife saw him taking his precious hybrid corn seed and he was dividing it into separate bags to give to the neighbors all around him. And she asked him, “What are you doing taking your precious hybrid seed and dividing it up to give to your neighbors all around you?” And he said, “Why, I cannot grow this corn unless my neighbors grow it also, because the pollen from their fields blow on my field. And I cannot raise this corn except my neighbors raise it too.” So he took his precious seed and divided it among all of us his neighbors.
The whole earth is like that. We cannot ultimately prosper unless they prosper. There is no peace for us unless there is peace for them. As long as they face insoluble problems, we face insoluble problems also. We cannot escape the interdependence and the interconnectedness of all the families of this earth.
When I was a boy in high school in Amarillo, in the mid 1920’s, they discovered that oil field out there in Borger, and all of that Panhandle; and there came to the city of Amarillo a wonderful boom. It was teeming with life. Most of those tall buildings you see in Amarillo today were built in those days. And Amarillo began to grow furiously. In the middle of that oil boom, and in the middle of that vast expansion of that queen city on the north plains, something happened. Oh, do I remember it!
On the other side, on the wrong side of the Santa Fe railroad tracks, there was a small community of Mexicans. We had nothing to do with them, and they certainly had nothing to do with us. They lived over there, and spoke their language, and lived their lives on the other side of the Santa Fe tracks. And we lived on this side, and spoke our language, and lived our lives.
Upon a day, there broke out a smallpox epidemic in the Mexican community in Amarillo on the other side of the railroad tracks. And that epidemic, not knowing the difference between those who live on this side of the tracks and those who live on this side of the tracks, and that epidemic, not knowing the difference between the skin of a Mexican and the skin of an Anglo, that epidemic swept over the city of Amarillo, and the United States government, through its Federal Health Agency, came down from Washington to Amarillo, and they closed down that town. They put a cap on it.
There wasn’t anybody that could go in it. There wasn’t anybody that could get out of it. There was no car that entered and no car that left; no truck that entered and no truck that left; no railroad train that entered and no railroad train that left. There wasn’t anything that entered Amarillo in that siege, and there wasn’t anything in Amarillo that left it.
And when the days and the weeks passed and the United States government lifted its ban, Amarillo was as dead as a doornail! One small part of the growth of the city on the south plains, Lubbock, can be found in what happened to Amarillo in those days of that terrible scourge of smallpox. There is no such thing as what happens to them not happening to me. The interdependence and interlocking of all mankind is unbelievable. God seemingly made it that way.
In the days when I was growing up, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hanoi, Saigon were names I didn’t even know and places that I’d have to learn as a student in geography, even to know its location on the map. But today it seems to me that Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam are as close as Arkansas and Oklahoma and New Mexico. And those cities of Saigon and Hanoi are like Austin and Houston. And what happens to those people over there is inextricably bound up with our life here in America, and sometimes poignantly and tragically so. This is a small, small, small world.
We need another thing. We need the spirit of missionary outreach and conquest. We have lost it. I am not only speaking of the denomination, I am speaking of the whole Christian world! The spirit of missionary conquest has escaped us. May I illustrate it?
In 1908, in 1908, there gathered in Northfield, Massachusetts a great missionary conference. It was presided over by John R. Mott and Robert E. Speer. I never saw John R. Mott. I, for a week listened to Robert E. Spear lecture on missions. Oh, the impression that statesman made upon my soul! Across the front of that missionary conference in Massachusetts, there was a great placard, and it read, “The evangelization of the world in our generation.”
In that day, there was a vigorous, viable, aggressive student volunteer band on every college and university campus in America. The spirit of march, and outreach, and conquest was felt everywhere. When I went to the university, there was a student volunteer band in our school. And I belonged to it even though I was not a mission volunteer.
Where has that spirit of conquest gone? We don’t have it anymore. Seems to me no small part of the Christian faith has come to the conclusion that the Hindu religion for the Hindu is as good for him as the Muslim’s religion for the Arab is good for him, as the Buddhist religion for the Chinese is good for him, as the Christian religion for the American is good for him. It is a matter of choice.
We have lost that tremendous conviction that without Christ men are lost. However philosophically you say it, however theologically you couch it, however dramatically or forensically it is presented, the great fundamental, final, everlasting truth is this, that men are lost without Christ! [1 John 5:12]. And our mandate is to witness to Him, to preach Him, to make Him known in the earth [Acts 1:8]. But the spirit of that conquest has gone from us.
That’s why Celebration ’72 seeks to bring some of it at least back in our hearts and our souls and our lives. And that leads me to the third thing we need. We need to share in that missionary appeal all the time, not just this week, not just this day, but every day of our lives. I need to be reminded of it, and the burden of its intercession needs to be laid upon my soul.
We need to share in prayer for the evangelization of the world. We need to pray that peace shall come. We need to pray that God will deliver us from dictators. We need to pray for an open door. We need to pray that God will give us the Philadelphian age of the church [Revelation 3:7-13], where people go and where they preach.
There was here, Sunday a week ago, a man from India whom we are helping return to his homeland. India has now prohibited the entrance of any Christian missionary. Nation after nation after nation has closed its doors against us. Not just the communist, atheistic nations, but other nations such as India. And the going of the missionary is increasingly difficult.
We need to pray for the evangelization of the world, for peace, for deliverance from oppressive governments. We need to witness ourselves wherever we have opportunity to speak a good word for Jesus. I love the Lord. I love this dear church. I love God’s people. I pray for you my brother and my friend. We need to share in witnessing, and we need to share in giving for the winning of the world to Christ; a something that all of us can do; we can give a gift.
You know, one time I had an unusual experience. I don’t mean it is dramatic, but it was just something that impressed me. When I go to a city, now most of the times they will place me in a motel which is not in the center of town. But I was in a city, and staying on the edge of the town, and I was walking around. I was so far on the edge of the town that just right over there was open country.
So I was walking around on the edge of this city, and I saw right over there on a side street, I saw a little, tiny doll house of a church. It looked like a playhouse church it was so tiny. I walked over there to it, could find no sign on it to see what kind of a church it was. I tried the door. It was unlocked. I went inside. With my hand I could touch the ceiling. With both of my arms I could almost touch the wall on either side. It was one of the tiniest churches I had ever seen.
I walked up to the pulpit and I stood there and looked out over what would be a tiny congregation. And as I looked, I just wondered, “What kind of a church is this? It is so small.” On the wall was a large printed placard. Somebody had thumb-tacked it against the wall. I walked over there and looked at it. It was an announcement of the Lottie Moon Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions. It was an announcement of the Lottie Moon Mission Offering for the evangelization of the world.
And on that large placard pinned against the wall, there were pictures of something like forty or fifty missionaries that they were to pray for and to help support. Well, I stood there and just looked at that little tiny church, and thought of the little handful of people that worshipped God in it. And I looked at that placard on the side. And I thought, “This little church, so tiny and small, is a part of the greatest movement in the earth.” Out from that little, tiny church there goes gifts and prayers that reach to heaven and touch the lives of untold thousands and thousands of people.
All of us can be like that. We belong to a large church. There will be thousands of you who listen to me on this television and radio who belong to little churches. Wherever we are, we can share in a common determination that Christ shall be known by all the tribes, and clans, and families, and tongues, and nations of the earth. It is a vast enterprise that binds us together, wherever we are in the earth.
May I close with a word about God’s blessings upon that world wide witness? Starting here, our Jerusalem; starting where you are who listen on television, in your Jerusalem, and going out around the earth. Here I wish that we could sit for hours while the pastor recounted what he has seen and what he has shared in—the blessing, the infinite immeasurable blessing of God upon that missionary enterprise.
Here’s one which is so typical. A few Sundays ago there sat to my right over here a missionary from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I ate dinner with her in her home. She’s one of the loveliest missionaries we have on the field. And she’s been down there for a generation and more. When I saw her again, I remembered something that happened in Buenos Aires.
I preached in a church in that vast, teeming city and capital of the Argentine. And the pastor of the church was absolutely one of the most charming young men I had ever been with. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He’s one of the finest looking young men I had ever seen. And the church was just growing and growing. It was a remarkable witness in the heart of that city.
And the young man was, is a medical doctor. And being a medical doctor he also has a practice in psychiatry, helping those people. It was an astonishing ministry to me that young man possessed, as a medical doctor, as a psychiatrist, and as the pastor of that Baptist church. And the response of the people, it was just wonderful.
And when I went away from the service, I remarked to a fellow missionary, “I had hardly ever been so impressed in a church on our mission field than I was in that church.” And I said, “And no less so am I impressed by the gifts and the dedication of that young pastor, that doctor.” You know what the missionary said to me? He said, “Do you know, do you know,” and he named this missionary who was here a few Sundays ago. She was downtown in a public market, in a public market she was downtown in a public market, and there was a poor, bedraggled outcast of a woman in that market, with a little baby boy in her arms. And that missionary witnessed to that mother; won her to Christ in that marketplace. And he said to me, “That baby is now grown, and he is the pastor and the doctor that you have just met in that church.” How do you like that? Oh, aren’t you glad you had some part in it?
Out of a thousand things that crowd into my soul, one of the young deacons here is David Fort. His wife, Ruth, is so vitally connected with our Woman’s Missionary Union. Down in southern Rhodesia, when Mabel Ann and I made that trip through east Africa, and she sang and I preached, starting at Addis Ababa, and in everyone of those great cities we held citywide evangelistic services.
Well, on the way down from the north to the south, through that black, dark continent, they went out of the way to take us to Sanjati. That is the most out of the way place I ever went to in my life. You talk about bush. It is bush around Sanjati for thousands of miles any direction you go. I thought the pilot in that little plane had absolutely lost his way. There was nothing, mile after mile after mile. And I could not imagine our having a mission where there wasn’t any people, just bush!
Well, he let that little plane down in a spot that I couldn’t even tell there was a runway there; but somebody had cleared out the bush, and there, sure enough, was a little place where the plane can land. And we got off of that plane. We were met there by David Fort’s brother, Dr. Giles Fort, and his wife is a physician also, those two doctors.
And we went with them and walked through that compound. I couldn’t believe it. One of the most extensive hospital units I ever saw is there. And they’re the only two doctors in it. And they had me go around and see some of the people in that hospital. And then they had me go, and Mabel Ann to sing, and I to preach, in the pretty little chapel they have there in the hospital.
Then, all of those children––it looked to me like there was a thousand of them––they were outside with a great big sign, there to there, “Welcome Dr. Criswell.” Well, they took us to the high school, elementary school, whatever all that was, auditorium, and we held a service there with those youngsters. And when I looked at it, in the most out of the way place you could imagine, I didn’t even know it existed, when I looked at it, felt its pulse, walked down those corridors in the hospital, prayed with those people through an interpreter, spoke through an interpreter to those students, mingled with them, shook hands with them, pat them on the head, just love them for Jesus’ sake, oh, I thought, “What God can do when our people have the spirit of response.”
That settles more questions, that does more good than all of the diplomatic political maneuvering in this earth! I don’t think there’s any comparison in it. If our people spent for God and for God’s work, one one-thousandth of the money we spend for political diplomacy, and bullets, and bombs, maybe the kingdom would come, and God’s will would be done in earth as it is in heaven [Matthew 6:10].
I must close. I’m just saying to you that it seems to me, when we enter praying like this, and intercession like this, and giving like this, it just seems to me, I’m touching the very heart of God. And I am a part of the most significant movement, enterprise, assignment, mandate that is possible to the human heart. Oh, aren’t you glad you belong to a missionary church, a missionary denomination, a missionary association of God’s children? And to have a part in it is not an onerous burden. It is a high, heavenly, holy privilege.
We stand in a moment to sing our hymn of appeal. And to sing it, prayerfully, quietly, standing before God, a family, a couple, or just you, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to answer any appeal that the Holy Spirit would press upon your soul, come now. If you’re in the topmost balcony in that last row, there is time and to spare, down one of these stairways and here to the front. I’ll be standing here on this side of our Lord’s Supper table. You come, give me your hand. “Pastor, I’ve given my heart to Christ.” Or, “Pastor, as a sign that I want to belong to this wonderful church, I’m coming, and here’s my hand.” Make the decision now in your heart. And when we stand to sing, stand up walking down that aisle, walking down that stairway, “Here I am, pastor, I make it now.” Do it, while we stand and while we sing.
OUR FAR-FLUNG MISSION LINE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-3-72I. The mission line
A. True church would be found in obedience to Great Commission (Acts 1:8)
B. The mission frontier of yesterday and today
C. Worldwide floodtide of paganismII. The interdependence and interlinking of all humanity
A. What affects one, affects us all
1. Farmer growing hybrid corn
2. City of AmarilloIII. The spirit of evangelistic missionary conquest IV. A common determination for implementing evangelization
A. United in prayer, witnessing, giving
1. Doll-house church