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A Missions Sermon (Excerpt) from Romans 15

October 13, 2006

Romans 15:17-19  Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.  I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done–by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.

A few weeks ago [actually about nine years ago now] I was at the concert of prayer and as we prayed for missions I sensed the Holy Spirit encouraging me and lifting up my eyes to see all that he was doing through our congregation in the area of missions.  And I believe he led me to pass on that encouragement to you.  Through our prayers and gifts God is calling to himself by his word Mongolians and Mexicans, students in Champaign, and students in China.  Sure if we didn’t do it he’d use somebody else, but he has been pleased to use us and we ought to rejoice in all he has done.  So if you are ever tempted to shuffle your feet and say “we’re just a dinky little church meeting in a dingy little basement not accomplishing very much”  Don’t do that!  Look at the harvest! Remember our missionaries!  There are lots of evangelical churches three times our size that don’t do a third of what we do in missions.  Don’t be arrogant about that, but rejoice in what God has done here and ask him to enable us to do so more and more.  (That’s the way Paul encouraged his congregations, you’re doing good in this, now do so more and more. Some might think, if missions is our strength then let’s focus on other things for a while and be balanced.  But I say no! if we’ve got something that we are doing well, let’s run with it.  Let’s fan it into flame.)  We’re going to approve a budget Tuesday night that gives 20% of all our church income to missions.  One dollar out of every five you put in the plate this next year will go to missions.  Against the backdrop of contemporary American evangelicalism, that is awesome.  Ascribe all the glory to God, but receive this encouragement and rejoice in what he has done through us.  Say Lord you alone are exalted, but we are exulting in all you have done and we pray that you would bless us more and more that the ends of the earth may fear your name.

            Now if we are going to be a church that continues to take missions seriously, that continues to give a larger and larger proportion of our money to missions, it is very, very important that we have biblical instruction on the missionary task of the church.  That’s what I want to provide this morning from Romans 15.  What are the things that Paul gloried in and that he therefore made the fundamentals of his missionary theology and strategies? 

Romans 15:19  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

How can this be?  We’re still doing missions in these regions, especially in places like Turkey, how can he say he’s done?  But we know that is exactly what he means because of v. 23 where he says there is no more work for him to do in these regions.  How can he say this?  We get a clue up in verse 14 where he says he is confident that the Romans Christians are competent to instruct one another.  When Paul had entered a region, planted a church and trained and appointed elders, he was done!  No more work for him to do!  In modern language, Paul’s missionary strategy was church planting and indigenous leadership training.   I’m a big fan of the Evangelical Free Church Mission because we are a church planting mission and the missionaries seek to hand over leadership to Christians from that country ASAP.  We have an exit strategy before we even enter the country.   Leaving a field is a difficult thing to do, sometimes we stay too long, sometimes we leave too early, but the principle at least is clearly biblical, we should seek to commission national leaders, commit them to the Lord and move on.  Why?  What’s the rush?  The rush is…

Romans 15:20  It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.

So there are three aspects of a Pauline missionary strategy:  church planting, indigenous leadership training and unreached people groups.  We should evaluate our ministries and the ministries of those we support by this criteria.  This doesn’t mean that the only people we should support are those doing frontier evangelism.  There is a need for people in support roles. But we should ask this question, how is this ministry ultimately furthering the biblical mission of the church which is global church planting?  We have supported families in our church who are doing evangelism here on campus and I think that is great because I believe that there is a way of doing evangelism on campus that furthers the goal of global church planting.  The reason we evangelize students at the University of Illinois is partly because we want to see some of these students who are won to Christ equipped with this Pauline philosophy of ministry and sent out to plant churches and train leaders among unreached people groups.

Here’s another aspect of the glory of this mission.  It is the eternal plan of God.  Paul quotes the OT so we will know that this is not just his strategy, this is God’s plan revealed in the prophets.

Romans 15:21   Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.”

That’s a quotation of Isaiah 52:15, part of the great Song of the Suffering Servant extending through chapter 53.  Think about what this says about the centrality of missions to the Christian faith.  Let this land on you like it landed on me yesterday, I’d never felt it this mightily before.  Here we are in the midst of the most theologically profound description of the cross in all the Bible, you can’t get any closer to the centerpiece of everything than we are here in Isaiah 53, and right here in the middle of it is missions.  He suffered so that nations would be sprinkled.  He went to the cross so that kings would shut their mouths and bow before Him.  He died so that those who had never heard of him would see and understand.   I urge you to get this vision for missions, it is not an optional adjunct to Christianity, it is right here in the center of the wounded heart of Jesus.

The other great OT description of Christ’s sufferings, Ps 22, ends the same way: by declaring the missionary impact of the cross.   It begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me, and it ends…

Psalm 22:27-31   “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.  All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive.  Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.”  [It is finished!]

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2006 8:46 pm

    Thank You.

  2. October 15, 2006 12:40 am

    Our missions focus is one of the strongest drawing points y’all had for me coming in as a newbie. The big words were nice and vocabulary-building (“So, uh, new boyfriend of mine, what exactly is exegesis? Or eschatology?”), but I was very, very, very excited to see that some churches used their finances in ways that I thought Christians were actually supposed to use their money. That, more than anything else, I think was what impressed me most about EV Free. Though the use of words I didn’t actually know was pretty good, too, considering that I was soon to be entering college as a journ major ;)

  3. egana permalink
    October 15, 2006 9:43 am

    I still don’t know what a lot of the words mean. But “Da Pasta” (said with a Brooklyn accent) does a great job, I think, explaining the concepts behind them, so I come away understanding what the scriptures mean, even if I don’t fully understand all the “isms” and “ologies.”

    The missions focus helps challenge me NOT to follow the worlds money-worshipping ways… even “frugality” can be a way to worship money: giving it too much empahsis in relation to other things in my life. I love being a part of a church that uses money for the glory of God… I have seen God’s faithfulness over and over again to provide the $ for the good works He sets before us…

    Another thing that intrigues me about God’s dominion over the world is that it is for those who cannot keep themselves alive. This puts things in a startling perspective for me, and it is good to be startled by God. *grin* How cane I think or talk about “my life” in a posessive way, when salvation and right-worship of the Lord God and His Son Jesus are for those “who cannot keep themselves alive.” If I cannot do even a simple task of continued existence in my own strength of will and purpose, how can I claim any real posession of my own life?

    hmmmm…. makes one think… makes me think… I’ve been cranky lately, as one illness after another keeps me home and away from the blessings of service and scripture feasting and group worship and sweet fellowship with the rest of you who love Jesus, complaining first in my heart and then more and mroe often out loud…

    but if my life is under the perfect dominion of God, then it is not my life to direct, and I am sinning against His sovereignty, questioning His perfection in His planning of my days, as I complain about the nature of the good works He has recently set before me…

    pray for me, my friends, that I would taste the sweetness of true, heart-humble submission to His plans for me…

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