Theology of Missions and Evangelism

The following message was presented to the congregation of Bible Community Church on Sunday evening, March 19, 2006, by GFA missionary, Rev. Mike Goldfuss. It is reproduced here in manuscript form with his permission.

I appreciated Pastor Rupert’s missionary message a month ago and my only complaint about it is that I didn’t come up with it. He spoke on the impossibility of missions and as a somewhat experienced missionary now after 10 years in Mexico, missions as was described that night is exactly that—humanly speaking, it is impossible because of the human heart’s condition—both the hearts of the missionaries and the hearts of the hearers.

I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach through the gospel of John about 3 times in the last three years, and one thing that the Lord Jesus Christ said is that without me, ye can do nothing. Some people think that without the Lord they can get a lot done. Some think that they can get a good bit done without Him. Some people think that they can get a little bit done without the Lord. But, the Lord Jesus Christ was not lying when He said, “Without me ye can do NOTHING.” No matter how well-prepared, focused, hard-working, great personalitied, and anything else a missionary may be, without the Lord Jesus Christ and dependence on Him, we can do nothing.

I am your missionary speaker tonight. I am a missionary. Everyone in my whole family is a missionary. About 20 years ago, I was preparing to go to Mexico for the very first time on the Mexico Mission team from Bob Jones University. I flew from Cleveland to Houston, Texas to meet the rest of our team that was driving from South Carolina. We drove about 7 hours from Houston down to the border city of McAllen, Texas. We had a week of preparation there with a missionary that lives in Texas and does a lot of literature work in Mexico. That man made a statement that I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Going over the border never made anyone a missionary.” Do we understand that? The fact that someone crosses a boundary between two countries or continents does not make him any more or less of what he was before he crossed that boundary. If I was not a missionary concerned about people’s souls and their relationship with their Creator before crossing the border of Texas and Mexico, I was not going to become a magical missionary the moment my feet touched Mexican soil. A missionary is something that someone is wherever they are. With that said, everyone assembled here tonight ought to be a missionary.

A good number of years ago, more than 13 at least now because that is how long Faith and I have been married, we both were studying at Bob Jones University, with the idea in mind of preparing ourselves to go to the mission field. We both were mulling the idea of joining a group that was going to be going to Mexico to start a camp ministry. Now, there is a great need for camp ministries—we are hearty supporters of Camp Peniel and the Lord has used Camp Peniel greatly in our lives. However, hearing some opinions by Pastor Ashbrook at the time and a few other folks, we felt that our missions’ endeavors should be directed more toward church planting. As you read the book of Acts, you don’t see the growth of camp ministries but the expansion of the gospel to the whole known world through one thing—church planting. Paul dedicated his life to going to different cities, proclaiming the gospel, and then seeing churches established there with those who had believed the gospel. We are seeking to do the same thing in Mexico City.

As a little child, I remember hearing about the mission field all the time here in Bible Community Church. We all have a tendency to think and imagine things in our mind that relate to where we live. For those of you who know the place where I grew up out in Leroy Township, we lived right by my grandfather’s big field. I used to think of all our missionaries going out and sitting in a great big field like the one by my house and when someone would come walking through the fields and the wild-flowers in the bright sunshine, they would stop them and witness to them. Our mission field of Mexico City is not like that. It is a big big city. It’s quite a bit different than Leroy Township. In fact, I used to have these fears before we first went to Mexico City that we would find a place to live, go out to do something, and then not be able to find where we lived again. Fortunately, that never happened.

If you would take the time to read biographies of great missionaries of the past, you would find out something interesting about many of them. Many of those great godly people spent eight, nine, ten or more years on the mission field before they saw even their first one or two converts. I am afraid that we are living in a different day. Many people go to the mission field and reports just come pouring back in that they are seeing souls saved every week, people are baptized every month, their churches are growing by leaps and bounds, etc., etc., etc. The church in a large measure today expects results and it expects results immediately. I think men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson and many others would be considered “failures” when it comes to missionary work.

When Faith and I first went to Mexico City 10 years ago, we expected immediate results. But we didn’t see immediate results. Now, we didn’t have to wait ten years to see our first converts, but the work has been slow in many ways. In fact, I remember going door-to-door visiting during our first year in Mexico and one day after doing this for about eight months, I was returning home and trudging up a long incline. It was hot, I was tired, and we hadn’t seen one person call or really be interested in the gospel throughout that whole endeavor of door-to-door. Satan can really get you down and doubting in times like that. I remember thinking that day: Can all of these thousands and millions of people really be wrong and Faith and I be the only ones right? That was a searching question that comes to the heart of what we really believe about missions. Is Jesus Christ the only way to have peace with God? Yes He is. Will all of these people go to Hell if they continue to reject Jesus Christ? Yes they will.

If anyone is involved in sales, they have to understand who they are trying to reach with their product. A welder wouldn’t try to sell iron bars to prisoners in a jail. If I were selling something to inmates in a jail, I would sell hacksaw blades. We have to understand the people to whom we are selling something. Now, let me be clear. We are in NO WAY selling the gospel, we are proclaiming it. It is not something sold or bought, it is given and received. But, I am convinced that we have unrealistic expectations many times with the gospel because we don’t really understand who the people are that are receiving it. I need to clarify that we shouldn’t be satisfied with few results. We should earnestly desire to see many people come to Christ. WE should earnestly desire to see God do an incredible work in changing people’s hearts and bringing them to Him whether that is in Mentor, Mexico City, or Mozambique. But normally, the Lord works slowly bringing people to Him one by one. I want us to consider several things tonight about missions and evangelism.

First, we have to consider man’s condition naturally.

We have had to come to realize that normally many people aren’t turning to Christ as a reality in Mexico. But why is it a reality? It is imperative that we understand the condition of the human heart. Now, if you are not a visitor tonight, I’m sure that you would agree that the human heart is sinful. But, what we do a lot of times is think things like: “Well, yes, I’m a sinner, but I’m not as bad as so and so.” Pastor Ashbrook used to have us learn a memory verse sometimes on Wednesday nights. I remember one time as a little boy that for a month or two our memory verse was Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” In the USA, we can insulate ourselves from the blatant evil that is in the world. In Mexico, we can’t really do that. We have seen things in ten years that I couldn’t even begin to mention from a church pulpit. Many many times Faith and I have remarked to each other (and maybe you have said the same thing)—”How could somebody do that?” Do you know how somebody can do that? Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?”

And let me tell you, living in the middle of that blatant evil day after day just wears and wears and wears on you. The danger of all of that wearing on you is that you come to view the people on the mission field that God has sent you to as the enemy. We try to help, and we try to give Biblical counsel and we try to witness and proclaim Christ and after investing sooooo much time in someone or in some family, they just totally turn their backs on you and on what you have tried to teach. Others after being helped just turn on you and cheat you or lie to you or steal from you. The temptation is to say, “I’m not going to help another person? I’m going to coop myself up in my house and we are going to make our own little compound and we’ll just ignore all of these people. And you should all say then, “Mike and Faith, come home and we’ll send our support to other missionaries who still want to open themselves up and get hurt. Why do people turn on you if you have helped them? Well, why did people turn on our Lord and crucify Him after He lived a perfect and sinless life before them for 33½ years and helped people all the time? The answer is: Because the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. If man’s heart is like that, if your heart and my heart are like that naturally, what hope do you have? What hope do I have? A verse was brought out to us a month ago in Matthew 19 when the disciples asked the Lord Jesus: “Who then can be saved?” They said, “Lord, this is impossible,” and our Lord responded in agreement with them. With man, this is impossible. Man left to himself will never turn to Christ. If all people, you and I included, have this terrible malady of sin, what can we do?

We are down in Mexico proclaiming the gospel of Christ. You are in Mentor, Ohio, doing the same thing. We can say, “Those people are so evil. I’d better stay away from them. I don’t want to contaminate myself or my children.” Well, do my kids do evil because of being around others who do evil? No, my kids do evil because of the evil that is in their own hearts. Jesus said, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies.” Sometimes a cough syrup label will say, “facilitates the expulsion of phlegm.” Does the cough syrup create phlegm? No, it brings out what is there. Being around other kids who don’t hide the fact that they do evil may not hide so much what is in my children’s hearts and it may facilitate the expulsion of that evil in different ways, but the problem with my children is not that others contaminate them but that they themselves, and I myself have an evil heart by nature and we are powerless naturally to do anything about it. That’s where the idea of total inability comes. If you do believe that you are able to choose God of your own will, consider the following verses.

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

1 Corinthians 2:14—”But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither CAN he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Romans 3:10,11—”There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

We often hear people say, “I was looking for God.” That isn’t exactly a Biblical idea. If someone does look and seek for God, it is not because they were so smart and they saw the light and said, “Hey, I want that light.” What do we do with the light naturally. Go with me to John 3. Let’s read verses 19 and 20. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, (What is that light that has come into the world? Jesus said in this same book, I am the light of the world. And how do men treat that light?) and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil (How many do evil based on Rom. 3:23? All have sinned, there is none righteous no not one) hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved.

God’s Word here in these passages that we have seen isn’t talking about those evil people outside of our church. He is talking about those very nice and good people who are sitting here tonight too. Before salvation, this is the description of all of us. The problem in all of this is not that we just do evil and some day when we get good and ready and have enjoyed the world to our heart’s content we can change ourselves whenever we get good and ready. We cannot do that. We do not have the ability to do this. Jeremiah 13:23 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”

Secondly then, we have to consider the believer’s condition.

Those who do the truth and walk in the truth do not walk in the truth because they were better than others. They have been wrought in God. God has changed them. If anyone then does come to Christ, and praise the name of our God that we have seen people come to Christ in our ten years in Mexico City, but if anyone in this whole sea of humanity comes to Christ, why do they come to Christ. Verse 21. “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

The Lord has been so good to us in Mexico City. We started out with 0 people and no church 10 years ago. During the past six months we have been averaging between 40-50 people. Looking at the fruit of people’s lives, we would say that a good 10-15 of those people show the fruit of truly being born again believers. A believer isn’t somebody who is better than somebody outside of the church, but he is somebody who God has saved and changed and sanctified. God saves sinners. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be in Mexico City as a missionary. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t give the gospel. If I didn’t believe that, I would have come home a long time ago, and I mean that.

Early in our ministry, when veteran GFA missionary Tom Zartman drove us to a Mexican city, he facetiously said, “Look at all these people just thrilled that you are here.” That was about the most humbling thing that I had ever heard. They weren’t.

If man is naturally dead and if man has no ability to come to Christ on his own, what is our hope? Our hope is in God. Paul was sad because of the poor response to the gospel. But God encouraged his heart. Acts 17—”I have much people in this city.” Acts 16—”And the Lord opened Lydia’s heart.” Some do come to the light that it may be manifest that they are wrought in God.

Let us consider the believer’s attitude toward man in his lost condition.

An unbeliever is not the enemy of the believer. Many times we look at the people in the world and ourselves as believers and subconsciously we think we are better then they. One thing that we have learned living in Mexico City in the midst of evil and sin and a world that hates our Saviour Jesus Christ is that we are no better than they. If God has done a work in my heart and saved me, and if I never would have chosen God and never would have loved Him and searched for Him if He hadn’t done that to me, why am I any better than those in the world? I am not. We need to view the world with compassion. What will give us that compassion? Not judging the world and saying, “I’m better,” but realizing, if it weren’t for the grace of God in my life, I would be right there and I’d probably be worse. I think every true Christian would have to do some battle with the apostle Paul and say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” I know my own heart and I know that it is deceitful and desperately wicked. I believe is was Charles Spurgeon who said once, “If God so chose to do, He could light a new hell with just one spark of the evil that still exists in the Christian closest to Him.” If you have achieved anything in your Christian life, why is that? It is only because of the grace of God.

Yesterday we had to take a few books back to the Morely Library in Painesville. That was the second trip to the library that I have taken this month. Faith and Mikey went in while I waited with the rest of the children for them in the van. I have noticed both times that there are some rather unkempt looking individuals that come outside the library to smoke—I’m not sure if they are homeless men or what, but they were there. I asked my girls in the van, “What do you think of those men?” The answer? “They’re bad.” What they are doing is bad and why are they doing it? Because they have bad hearts. But I asked the girls, “Why were you born in your mommy and daddy’s family and not into the families that those men were born into?” Because of the grace of God. Really, why weren’t you born in a jungle of Brazil where the chances are pretty slim that you may never hear the gospel of Christ? Because God has had His hand on you.

I am what I am by the grace of God—not because of anything else. So, instead of judging the people who are without, let us have compassion on them, giving them the gospel, and praying that our God will do a mighty work in their hearts, the work of regenerating them and granting them the faith and repentance to come to Christ and to turn from their sins. Then we will be doing the work of evangelists as I believe the Lord would have us to do it.

edited by Isle Kerguelen