The Great Commission has been betrayed by the current leadership of a once great American missionary movement, and it is fraught with bad theology, lazy workers, and a confused message.
Not too long ago there was general agreement and unity concerning the missionary message, the missionary motives, and the missionary objectives. Christians supporting missionary endeavors and the Christians carrying the gospel message abroad had few doubts concerning the reliability and authority of the Holy Scriptures, the virgin birth and deity of our Lord, the atoning merit of His death and His bodily resurrection. Sadly, many of today’s missionaries are not equipped to defend these doctrines against the attacks of critics. Perhaps they do not believe these doctrines.
In simpler times, the gospel of evangelical Christianity began with the burning impulses of dedicated believers who heard the call of Christ to reach the lost world and they felt in their hearts the thrust of His mission and command: “…Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age [i].”
Missionaries went forth from then on to ‘save men’ through their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He Himself as the personal Redeemer and Sin-bearer. Their own individual experience (i.e. regeneration) was the impelling force and the primary objective for reaching lost souls. They had a clear message to preach: “Jesus Christ and Him crucified [ii],” and that was the only gospel of salvation. Their zeal was holy and intense; their purpose divine and resolute. They were armed with nothing more than a Bible.
These missionaries were upheld by faithful prayers of the churches that they left behind, who had no other conception of the missionary’s daily labors than that of simply preaching the Word of God. The churches believed in the effectiveness of this simple gospel message knowing that it possessed the power of the Holy Spirit to consummate the tremendous sacrifice and consuming labors of the missionary. Those were the days when intercessory prayer was stressed and believed in, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit was actively sought.
Times have changed. These are lost truths. Now the missionary field has changed for the worse. The message has changed, and the program is changed. The methods and objectives upon which the Great Commission was founded are no longer considered valid by today’s standards.
The essentials of the past are now considered non-essential, and the non-essentials of the past have been elevated to essentials. The doctrines, principles, and objectives of the New Testament have been replaced by doctrines, principles, and objectives of a fantastic amalgamation of postmodern America.
These new missionaries – Americans mostly – believe if the Gospel is not getting the desired results, then we must repackage it. The Great Commission no longer needs prayer, but more money. It does not need the Bible, but a new movie. Field theologians have been replaced by social scientists. “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” has been replaced by “God really does love everybody just as we are.” Zeal has been replaced by random leisure pursuits. The Church’s doctrines have been reduced to a few lines known as a ‘vision statement.’
Sophisticated marketing campaigns invented by ‘professionals’ who know a thing or two about staging a brand launch have made their contribution to the rise of an apostate form of Christianity. These entertainment-driven methods were quickly exported to the foreign mission field from the Disney church. Moreover, opinion poll is preferred rather than the authority of Holy Scripture.
In time, the new agnosticism held high places in ecclesiastical and missionary leadership so that it is as firmly entrenched in the mission field as it is at home.
[i] Matthew 28:19-20
[ii] 1 Corinthians 2:2