ACTS 1:8
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

For today’s missions challenge, the USA church has been honed. All signs indicate we are in a state of decline, but like a beautiful flower, the USA church’s last glorious act could be to cast the Gospel seed to all the earth. This may be the one last great cause left available for the USA church to do. Let’s heed the heroic call and give ourselves to missions. We all need to pray, give, and go. We begin with prayer.

Acts 1:8a “Ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you:”

Without God’s power, missions will languish. Prayer is essential for success. The church at Antioch understandably became the first missionary congregation. It had praying leaders and praying members (see Acts 13:1-2). I fear we have lost the vital connection between prayer and missions.

We often tell how modern missions began, William Carey convinced fellow Baptist pastor Andrew Fuller to establish a missions society to promote world missions. A rarely told fact is, before the missions society was founded, these Baptist pastors had regularly met for prayer for 8 years. Carey was barely able to persuade them to support missions. I’m convinced it would have never happened had there not been 8 years of prior praying to help prepare the way.

Extending Christ’s kingdom is a war watched in the physical realm, but ultimately waged in the spiritual. All successful mission efforts share a common trait. On them rests a mysterious power, an energy coming from another dimension with such strength it amazes and startles all who witness it. It comes on wings of prayer.

Thus, missionary statesman Robert Speer (1867-1947) is right, “Evangelization of the world depends first upon a revival of prayer. Deeper than the need for workers; deeper far than the need for money; deep down at the bottom of our spiritual life, is the need for the forgotten secret of prevailing, world-wide prayer. Missions has progressed slowly abroad because piety and prayer have been shallow at home.”

I call us to travailing prayer, to crying out as if in birth pains for the delivery of newborn baby believers. The kingdom is advancing slowly because we travail little. For births to happen, someone has to endure labor pains. Only as we travail in birth pains of prayer will new souls be born into the kingdom of God.

I call us to traveling prayer, to making geography central to our petitions. Ethnocentricism ever threatens to undermine our spirituality. Seeing ourselves as the most import people in the world will destroy missions praying.

If we do not have some form of disciplined approach to praying for others, we always slip back into praying for me, my four, and no more. Too localized in our outlook, we pray for our city, but not for the rest of our state, or for our state, but not other states, or for the USA, but not the rest of the world.

Our Acts 1:8 mandate begins with Jerusalem, but then extends beyond it, to Judea, Samaria, and uttermost regions. This expansive outlook should characterize our praying.

For our heart to beat as God’s heart, we have to find a way in our everyday prayer patterns to cry out regularly for our city, our state, the USA, North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

We may never travel to China, India, Nepal, or Tanzania, but we can spend a little time there every day in prayer. We must pray for missionaries, for native leaders, for the persecuted, for the lost. Woe to us if we shirk this responsibility.

Until we have a world vision, we do not share God’s vision, for He sees the whole world. Our prayers need to travel, following God’s tear-filled eyes as they longingly gaze on the lostness of all humanity. Put geography in our prayers.

Travailing and traveling prayer were powerfully displayed in the life and ministry of missionary James Fraser (1871-1937), Apostle to the Lisu. He pleaded with believers to send out travailing and traveling prayers for the Lisu, the people God put on his heart. Fraser wanted agonizing prayers from every corner of the globe to focus on the Lisu, “I am not asking you to just help in prayer as a sort of sideline, but I am trying to roll the main responsibility of prayer warfare on you. I want you to take the burden of these people on your shoulders.” Fraser practiced travailing and traveling prayer himself. When he arrived among the Lisu, they were divided into two groups ( North Lisu and South Lisu. He lived and worked among the South Lisu, but spent half of every day praying for the North Lisu. When revival came to the Lisu, it came to the North.

Our mission efforts must begin with travailing and traveling prayers.

Acts 1:8b “ . . and ye shall be witnesses unto me . . .”

“Unto me,” Jesus said. It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. Missions requires us to move out of selfishness into selflessness. We have to give.

In the missions enterprise, prayer has to come first, but money must quickly follow. Finances are necessary. Generous spending must undergird the sending.

When the topic is giving, humor can be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. A Minister of Music once announced the person who gave the most to missions that day would be allowed to choose their three favorite hymns. Miss Fannie, 95 years old, gave $35,000. The stunned music man told Miss Fannie to pick her three favorite hymns. She immediately pointed at three rich, handsome young men and said, “I want him, him, and him.”

An artist was once asked to paint a picture of a dying church. Instead of depicting a tottering old building, the artist painted a gorgeous auditorium, carved pulpit, magnificent organ, beautiful stained-glass windows, and in the corner a collection box, “For Missions,” covered with cobwebs.

MacGorman well says, congregations that spend all but a pittance of their resources on themselves are missing churches, not mission churches. A pastor, asked why his church gave so much to missions instead of paying off building debt, replied, “We give what we do to missions so that when the building is paid for, there will be a church in it. A church either reaches out or passes out.” We extend or end.

Some say they don’t believe in missions pledges because they don’t want their left hand to know what their right hand is doing. I fear we give so little our right hand would be ashamed to let our left hand know.

We need some people to give with extraordinary generosity to missions, thereby setting an example for other Christians to follow. The example of a few can be contagious to the whole group, and can shake an entire inert mass.

Maybe you could pay the salary of a missionary. Possibly there’s someone you know, or you have confidence in the church’s ability to find and send forth people willing to relocate. God may lead you to say, “You find the person, I’ll find the money.”

This way of thinking may sound radical to us, but is not without precedent. Others have already charted these waters for us.

People’s Church of Toronto, Canada, at one time the greatest missions church in the English speaking world, had several slogans that guided their remarkable missions pilgrimage. “Untold millions are still untold.” “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone hears it once?”

A third slogan, one which helped them send forth over 300 career missionaries from their church, was, “Be a missionary, or send one.” Few can give at that level, but we can all give.

It’s not enough to sing along with the choir and orchestra, and then fumble through the bulletin when the collection plate is passed.

It’s no good to use both hands to applaud missions, but then use neither hand to reach in the wallet for an offering. If we expect the Gospel to fly on wings, each member must donate enough for a few feathers.

Money is never an end in itself, but always a means to an end, the end being either ourselves or God’s work. Our question can never be, “How much of my money will I give to God?” but always instead, “How much of God’s money will I keep for myself?” We need to do self-inventory, reposition our hearts and line up more of our finances with God’s program for world evangelism.

Acts 1:8c “. . . both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

The Twelve, first buck out of the chute, learned they were to be itinerants. The road was their platform, every human being their audience. The Christian pilgrimage is never a journey to one location. The calling is to accept responsibility for many places.

To every Christian, geography and mobility have to matter. True spirituality entails keeping next to our Bibles our street guides, road atlases, and globes. Staying within the four walls of our homes and church houses will not do. Since lost sheep are scattered, we have to scatter to find them.

Frederick Sampson spent a summer on his uncle’s farm. The first morning, his uncle woke him at 4 a.m. and set him to work around the barn. He cleaned stalls, fed horses, and carried water. He finished four hours later, was exhausted, and started climbing back up to his bed in the hayloft. His uncle asked, “Where are you going?” “To bed.” “Why?” “I’ve finished my work.” Frederick never forgot what happened next. His uncle leaned over, put his finger in his nephew’s face, and said, “Son, I’m going to tell you something I don’t want you ever to forget. What you do around the barn is chores, what you do in the fields is work.”

Churches excel in chores. We perform well inside our spiritual barns, our church houses. Knowing how to take care of ourselves, we do chores efficiently.

The Great Commission applies to everywhere else, to work in the harvest fields. In our chores we minister to each other as believers, in our “work” we perform an unselfish act of worship to God by trying to reach for Him the lost.

How are you and I doing in this matter of going? Before our missions and ministry revival began, I believed I could stay in Springfield and please God. I somehow had blinders on, which kept me from seeing the obvious in the Bible.

It is impossible to carry out the Lord’s commands without going. As long as people remain in darkness, we are duty bound to go carry light to them.

To sit and wait for someone to come to us is a strange way to go. To sit idly by, doing nothing, is an odd notion of seeking lost sheep.

Few hunters sit in their kitchen and wait for ducks to fly by. Fishermen don’t sit on their back porch and hope a fish will flop down beside them.

Farmers don’t stand at the fence-row and summon a crop to come in. My dad, a cotton farmer, did not stand inside the barn and beckon, “Here, cotton, here cotton, come this way, cotton, and jump into my sack.” He had to go out among the cotton stalks. We too have to move, to overcome inertia, to draw near sinners.

The Gospel is carried by go, not by osmosis. The message has to be picked up, carried, conveyed, delivered.

Elbert Smith, a missionary in Mexico City, says a new believer, a young lady named Reina, asked him what happens after we die. Elbert spoke of Heaven, but Reina interrupted, “What happens when people who don’t know Jesus die?” Elbert gently explained, there’s no purgatory, no second chance after death. He could tell the conversation was turning toward Reina’s ancestors. In cultures where ancestors are revered, this is a somber matter, a huge issue for new believers. Reina pressed the point, “What happened to my grandmother who died before she heard about Jesus?” Elbert replied as softly as he could, “I’m sorry, Reina, Jesus is the only way.”

Reina took a moment to take it all in, and to collect herself, and then asked, “Who was supposed to come and tell my grandmother?” Elbert says he mumbled something, but didn’t have an answer. I too don’t have an answer. A possible thought haunts me. Maybe it was supposed to be me or you.

As long as people are in danger of everlasting fire, we all must find our place in the bucket-brigade and help convey living water. All must pray, drawing water from God’s well of protection and anointing.

All must give, passing buckets from hand to hand, making sure money is given to those seeking to extinguish flames of lostness.

After we all pray, drawing power from God’s well, and after we all give, conveying support, the whole brigade is useless unless we all go and stand at the end of the bucket brigade to throw water on the fire.

We all must go, some short-term, some long-term, some to our city, some to our state, some to the USA, some to the uttermost. There has to be contact with the people we seek to save. Someone has to deliver living water in person.

Let’s fulfill our reason for existing. The mission of every Christian is missions. For missions to succeed, all must pray, all must give, all must go.