In a Reply to My Daughters Concerning Church Missions Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 7 was used to show by analogy that Apostolic guidance comes in several forms, and thus we learn by such to evaluate and determine God’s will for us in the present time of this dispensation, which ever draws near to its end. We are to follow and serve the Lord without unnecessary distractions or impediments in God’s kingdom on Earth being conformed to that of Heaven. I referred to a popular and well known movie, “The Fiddler on the Roof”, which I will now recall and utilize to illustrate a few things; along with another film my wife and I just viewed last week, “Silence”, depicting the horrific persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan.
The Fiddler on the Roof is a Yiddish musical based on the novel “Tevye and His Daughters by Sholem Aleichem” (1894), popular, and one of my favorites (so much so that my kids gifted my wife and I with tickets to see the Musical of it in San Diego a few years ago). We have a poor Jewish Milkman, with a wife (Golde, Gold) and 5 or 7 girls, 3 are ready to marry off; the Milkman (Tevye, Hebrew Tuvya, literally “God is good”) lives in a Jewish ghetto in a Gentile world, and they undergo all the hardships of such a life, with added prejudice and persecution of their non-Jewish neighbors. Jewish religious Tradition is what holds them together, and their God and Mosaic Law is the Dance to which they move as a Fiddler on the Roof. It is Life versus Tradition in its essential conflicts of Faith and Hope and Love. The three oldest Daughters Tzeitel (Sarah) then Hodel (Hadassah, Esther) and last Chava (Hava, Eve) typifies the three phases the transformation of Judaism in its struggle with Christianity. Faith which works by love first ventured beyond Moses; then Hope in love and longing leaves to prison and isolation, separated far and long; then Love by the Word of the Gospel (the New Testament) denies self, forsakes all (like Ruth) to live free and new. The rest you can discover when you watch the movie.
The movie “Silence” is a historical drama based on the 1966 novel of Shusaku Endo, which fictionalized the historic facts of 16th & 17th century Japan in its intolerance to and persecution of Christianity of the Roman Catholics. “The story is set in the time of Kakure Kirishitan (“Hidden Christians”), following the suppression of the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638) of Japanese Roman Catholics against the Tokugawa shogunate.” But the actual history of Christianity being introduced into Japan is far more dramatic and instructive than any movie. You have three films that come out of this period of the spread of the Gospel: 1st, “Gulliver’s Travels” of Jonathan Swift’s novel based on the fascination of Marco Polo Travels to China-Mongolia and William Adams to Japan, and of others elsewhere (including the ancient classics). 2nd, “Shogun” the miniseries filmed in Japan. 3rd, “Silence”, filmed in Taiwan. The West meets the East in exploration and evangelization, for commerce and conversion. At work was the nations among themselves for power and position in lands and resources; and the Christianity also in like manner were contending for supremacy and influence to spread their version of the truth and scripture. In the mix of these forces, the desire to evangelize the Far East of China, India, Japan, and beyond was finding opportunity and means often in the same ship. Thus the Roman Catholic priests and orders were busy to venture quickly in the newly discovered lands and peoples, and foremost at this time were the Jesuits of the Society of Jesus newly founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier (Savier), and others. The Franciscans and the Dominicans were antagonistic to this new order, as they were with each other before, which in turn gave others (Protestants, heathens, etc.) grounds to accuse, oppose, and divide at every turn. Xavier was exceptionally godly as an example, and fervent for the conversion of people of Japan. In a few years, the numbers grew to thousands, in a few decades, into tens of thousands, then to hundreds of thousands till Christianity became outlawed and exterminated. The movie cannot convey the details and lessons hidden within the facts, experiences, and individuals (like Ferreira and the Hidden Christians) who all shared and participated, for good and evil, in this important time of Japan’s history.
This is another case that belong in the ongoing Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, in which he recounts the 10 Great Persecutions against the Church, and ends with Diocletian’s, and after which Foxe writes: “Constantine so established the peace of the Church that for the space of a thousand years we read of no set persecution against the Christians, unto the time of John Wickliffe.” So this like others before and after also ended, and in time God would reap judgment, and humble the nations for all their murderous pride: (From Mac Farlane’s Japan p49-50) “It appears that the siege was converted into a long and close blockade, and that when the indomitable converts of Xavier were reduced and in good part exterminated by famine, a storm and an atrocious massacre ensued, none being spared, because none would recant and beg quarter; but men, women, and children being all butchered in heaps. In this war of religion, according to the ‘most moderate estimate, there fell on both sides 40,000 men. According to the papists, the number of native Christians alone was far greater than this, and all the atrocities and horrors of the Diocletian persecution were repeated, exaggerated, and prolonged. The magnitude of the holocaust does indeed afford some measure of the depth and tenacity with which Christianity, in its Roman form, had struck its roots into the soil. Over the vast common grave of the martyrs was set up this impious inscription: —”SO LONG AS THE SUN SHALL WARM THE EARTH, LET NO CHRISTIAN BE SO BOLD AS TO COME TO JAPAN; AND LET ALL KNOW, THAT THE KING OF SPAIN HIMSELF OR THE CHRISTIANS’ GOD, OR THE GREAT GOD OF ALL, IF HE VIOLATE THIS COMMAND, HE SHALL PAY FOR IT WITH HIS HEAD.” Then comes World War II.
Before we look in the Holy Bible and consider the things pertaining to Church Missions, I must need recount another personal matter in regard to a book that was first given in talks by Watchman Nee (Nee ToSheng) in Chinese and published in Shanghai in 1938 and titled “Rethinking the Work”, then a year later, 1939, it was published by him in English as “Concerning Our Missions”, by The Witness and Testimony Publishers (Theodore Austin-Sparks) in London. “Revised Edition published in English for the first time under the title The Normal Christian Church Life by International Students Press (Washington, D.C., 1962) and variously reprinted at different times since then under that same title.” “Published in a paperback edition in English in the United States under the title Concerning Our Missions (n.p., [February 1980]).” “First English-language edition published 1939 in Great Britain by The Witness and Testimony Publishers from whose Trustees Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc. has received assurance of support for reprinting and adapting it to its original form under the title of the original Chinese edition [Rethinking the Work”, edit. by S.K. ]. All other material restored or added for this revised and enlarged edition © 1982 by Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc. New York.” The 1980 edition that is referred to was by a group of us young Christians in El Cajon California (some of whom are L.H., J.H., F.B., M.K., and others), and it was reprinted exactly as found in the borrowed copy from a sister in Christ, a widow, whose husband was a co-worker with T. Austin-Sparks. She gave me contact to sister Sparks with whom I spoke, requested permission to reprint it exactly as found without changes or additions. The only addition we made was on the blank page following the original this notice: “For the author’s more mature views concerning the Work, consult chapter six in “Further Talks on the Church Life” by the author which is the substance of a talk on re-thinking the Work given to fellow-workers at Mount Kuling, August 19, 1948.)
((From Wikipedia: “After the rise of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, Christians came under great persecution. False charges and arrests were also brought against many foreign missionaries. Through intensive propaganda campaigns and threats of imprisonment, believers were influenced to accuse one another. On April 10, 1952, Watchman Nee was arrested in Shanghai by Public Security officers from Manzhouli, Manchuria and charged with bribery, theft of state property, tax evasion, cheating on government contracts, and stealing of government economic information. Nee was also “re-educated”. On January 11, 1956, there was a nationwide sweep targeting the co-workers and elders in the local churches. Some died in labor camps, while others faced long prison sentences. On January 18, 1956, the Religious Affairs Bureau began twelve days of accusation meetings at the church assembly hall on Nanyang Road in Shanghai, in which many accusations were brought against Nee in large accusation meetings. On June 21, 1956, Nee appeared before the High Court in Shanghai, where it was announced that he had been excommunicated by the elders in the church in Shanghai and found guilty on all charges. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment with reform by labor. Initially, he was detained at Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai but was later moved to other locations. Only his wife, Charity, was allowed to visit him. On January 29, 1956, Public Security took over the Nanyang Road building, and many of Nee’s co-workers were arrested, put into isolation, and forced to repudiate Watchman Nee. Some co-workers joined in the accusation of Watchman Nee while others, such as Peace Wang, Ruth Lee, and Yu Chenghua remained silent and were punished with life imprisonment. Following this, mass accusation meetings were held across the country to condemn the “anti-revolutionary sect of Watchman Nee”. Later imprisonment and death. One year before Nee’s death in 1972, his wife, Charity, died due to an accident and high blood pressure; Nee was not allowed to attend her funeral. Charity’s eldest sister then took the responsibility to care for Nee in prison. Nee was scheduled for release in 1967 but was detained in prison until his death on May 30, 1972. There was no announcement of his death nor any funeral. His remains were cremated on June 1, 1972 before his family arrived at the prison. Nee’s grandniece recounted the time when she went to pick up Nee’s ashes: In June 1972, we got a notice from the labor farm that my granduncle had passed away. My eldest grandaunt and I rushed to the labor farm. But when we got there, we learned that he had already been cremated. We could only see his ashes… Before his departure, he left a piece of paper under his pillow, which had several lines of big words written in a shaking hand. He wanted to testify to the truth which he had even until his death, with his lifelong experience. That truth is—”Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee.” When the officer of the labor farm showed us this paper, I prayed that the Lord would let me quickly remember it by heart… My granduncle had passed away. He was faithful until death. With a crown stained with blood, he went to be with the Lord. Although Nee did not fulfill his last wish, to come out alive to join his wife, the Lord prepared something even better—they were reunited before the Lord.—Watchman Nee’s grandniece, Watchman Nee: A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age.”))
The reflection is concerning church-missions, not properly concerning the church nor missions. It is the same as Christian Missions or Bible Missions, and other like comparisons we might reference. As Christians, we look to Scripture to know and understand God’s will and way for us as individuals and collectively as the church. The New Testament is our Manual but entirely connected to the Old Testament and to its people the Hebrews, Israel and the Jews. Christians are of many categories and sects, names and denominations, with the principal divisions of Catholics and Protestants. The Catholics are subdivided further into primary the Western of the Roman Catholic Church with those under her; and the Eastern Orthodox Churches consisting of several ethnic types (Greek, Syrian, Coptic, Russian, etc.) who are not subject to the Pope. The Protestant Churches are very many with historical roots into the earliest years of the Church after the Apostles. There were several non-Catholic churches or Christians both orthodox and herectical that preceded the Protestant Reformation of the 15th century, and several Catholic Orders that were very much Protestant in many Biblical features and principles. Some of the major Protestant Churches are Anglicans (English Church), Lutherans (German Church), Calvinists (Reformed, Presbyterians), Zwinglians (Reformed, Anabaptists), Moravian-Bohemian United Brethren Church, Baptists, Methodists, etc. without end. So, we are speaking and thinking of Church-Missions as distinct of what these groups are called and their distinctions that they maintain in their interpretations of the Divine Text. We are not concerned with their peculiarities but with how they have or might apply the words of the Bible to their missions and visions. Neither need we focus on their failures or success as to the merit, value, and truth of that work; although we must never avoid or evade the reports and news of their origins and growths.
Church Missions may be looked at in the same manner we look at the Church or Christianity. We have the Original Apostolic Age consisting of the Lord, His Twelve Apostles to the Jews or House of Israel and the Samaritans, Paul and the Apostle to the Gentiles and his helpers and co-workers, and continues and concludes with the believers, brethren, converts, disciples, and Christians who were the first few generations after the Apostles. Then follows the Catholic Age comprising several branches of Catholic or General and Common or Universal Christians adhering to the Apostolic Tradition and the New Testament; which continued till the Protestant Reformation , which became another great branch of the Tree of Christianity. The Protestant Branches are many, and of them these are notable: the Evangelicals, the Fundamentalists, Pentecostals and Charismatics. It is of the newest streams come the Antioch Movement that my daughters are part of and serve. The entire picture is like a Body having many members and parts as described by Paul in 1st Corinthians. However, the Body is not of the members or parts that are not truly members of Christ, and the House and Tree is not of the natural composition but rather of the spiritual. Their names and distinctions are not essential to their being and relationship to the Lord as to their membership. Their Missions in spreading the Gospel of God’s Christ, the Lord and Savior of mankind, as His witness and presence in the world is the same for all and each. We must examine the Scriptures first and foremost to discover what is written, then we can compare it with what exists, before we turn to how the churches and Christians interpret and apply the Scriptures to their history and their ministry.
The Lord Jesus in the Gospels is described and detailed in His words and deeds in the land of Israel, among the Jews in the Jewish world of Romans and Greeks, that is of the Gentiles. Christians from the earliest centuries have seen various relations of the Gospels to each other, and all are agreed that the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are more related in their accounts than the Gospel of John. In one Account Jesus Christ is shown to be the descendant of Abraham and David, a Jew of the House of David, uniquely born of a Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish deliverance sins of His people. He comes as predicted in the Old Testament the King of the Jews, the Messiah, Christ, and as such lives and grows up among His people, to suffer as they suffered in the world under Devil and Rome. As ImmanuEl the Nazarene, John the Baptist prepared a repentant and receptive people of Israel to introduce them to the Lord Christ, the Spirit Baptizer and Judge of Israel. As the anointed generated Son of God, He will display perfect obedience to God His Father according to all that has been written from the mouth of God, and thus defeats Satan the Tempter and Deceiver. Israel is in darkness and death under Gentile dominion and God’s Kingdom voided and neglected in every way. Thus, of John’s disciples He called His first followers and witnesses to become His Fishermen and Apostles. Thus, they attended and companied with Him day and night as He moved among His people to heal and save by God’s power. The numbers attracted to Him grew quickly, and He must needs instruct His disciples in the Kingdom of God and Heaven. Unlike the leaders of Israel in all their Jewish sects and parties, He returns them to the Law and the Prophets and the Writings given to them by God, and to ignore the Traditions which directly contradicts and negates the Word of God; that they must not be hypocritical in faith or practice if they would be His Followers and God’s Children. The ways of the heavenly kingdom is that of humility, simplicity, integrity, charity, in holiness and righteousness of the truth with faith, hope, and love. Our external life should be governed by our internal life of obedience to the Lord and God. The true disciples are known by their words and by their deeds, thus Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians would ever be distinguished in this new order and way for this new dispensation. He heals a leper to testify His credentials the Jewish priests; He heals a Gentile soldier’s sick servant in response to a faith that He could not fine in Israel, and thus promises that many such like him shall be found in heaven’s kingdom, but predicts that the Sons of the Kingdom to be cast out. So, He ministered to His people to bring them back as a Shepherd to their proper place with God as their Father. He works among them and the Holy Spirit works in them to form them with faith into a new family of friends of God. He must also expose the Devil and the demons, along with the errors of the Jewish Tradition that nullified the Scriptures. As the opposition builds against Him of the leaders of Judaism, He must organize and constitute His Apostles to assist Him in the evangelization of the lost sheep of the house of Israel in view of the offer of the coming kingdom of God, and for now to avoid the Gentiles and Samaritans. But they too will be treated as He was mistreated, both by Jews and Gentiles, as they spread the good-news, their testimony and confession will not be forgotten by His Heavenly Father. They are to know and understand that Christianity is not and must not be in conformance to or compromise with the world, whether with foes or family or friends. Thus, He and they continued to labor till John was imprisoned and beheaded, and so closed off the old dispensation from the new, which in turn must likewise suffer and be rejected. Yet in tears of heart with grief of mind the Messiah continues if perchance Israel with their leaders might still be converted. But alas, they will not, and He foretells hope for the Gentiles. But this new change Concerning the Kingdom of God must not be disclosed to unbelief except as a sign and witness against them, yet He must prepare His disciples and followers of those things most needful and helpful to them for the new age and kingdom of His Cross to His Return. The Parables discloses the present dispensation in its essential features, and other aspects will be revealed as needs arise, and in their own proper times and ways. The apostles as Disciples and Followers, as Servants and Friends, as Children and Brethren, will become His Church, His Assembly and Congregation and Community, His Ekklesia, which He will build and preserve throughout the church age, or the Christian dispensation. The Message and News is all about Him, Messiah-Christ, He lived, suffered, died, arose, and exalted to God’s right hand awaiting the completion and the maturity of the fulness of the times of the Gentiles to be terminated. His Apostles and the Church will continue and to spread Him to all the nations to the very end. Thus, is Matthew’s account in brief.
Mark’s Account differs from the Hebrew-Jewish regnal portrait of Christ; and gives us the Lord’s Servant in haste and on the go, briefly telling us the Good News as to Romans with Latin eyes and ears. The Son of God will be introduced by John by baptism, He will be witnessed to by the Father’s Voice and Spirit, then tempted by Satan before He enters on His Mission to Israel. John is imprisoned and He preaches God’s kingdom, and He gathers His workers for fishing for men in Israel. He visits the Synagogue, teaches them beyond Rabbinical Authority, deals with unclean spirits with power and authority. He and His disciples continue travels in Israel, here to heal the sick of fever, there to heal the diseased and the demonized; He prays alone, He preaches and heals as He goes and encounters His people’s need. He testifies to Israel by His words and works, and becomes famous in Israel as a wonder worker; but He hides from fame and fans. He forgives sins, the Jewish leaders oppose Him, and He continues to add disciples. His Disciples are not like John’s Disciples, He is a new BrideGroom with something New to add and give. He is Lord of the Sabbath. He continues to evangelize Israel in all parts, then He appointed Twelve Apostles from among His Disciples to help His evangelism of Israel. He is blasphemed by the Jewish leaders as in league with BeelZebub the Prince of Demons, and of the House and Kingdom of the Devil and Satan; He then severs His Disciples from His natural family, to reveal the will of God is His kingdom. Thus, He begins to speak in parables against the Jews, and for His followers, to hide and conceal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God from the world, but to interpret and reveal them to His Disciples. He trains them to live by faith without fear; and expels the unclean spirit of the demoniac Legion to testify to all men; then He heals a Synagogue Ruler’s daughter from sickness and death along with a woman who suffered for 12 years with incurable bleeding and with physicians, to show both and to all that faith in God’s Servant brings healing, health, hope, and life. Thus, as the New and Promised Prophet He would commission the Twelve to go by twos to Israel ahead of Him. John is beheaded and He prepares His Apostles for the changes of the new dispensation. He shows them how His Disciples are to feed the people in the Gospel. Opposition builds against Him among the leaders and rulers of the people, because He refuses to adhere to Jewish Tradition and rejects Talmudism for simple Scripture. He heals a Greek-Syrophoenician woman of faith and understanding to show other Gentiles how they may come to Him for healing and salvation. And continues Mark in very brief lines to follow the Lord and His Disciples and His Apostles towards the Cross, and coming Kingdom and the new age about to be inaugurated in resurrection and power, to spread the word and way of Christ throughout the whole world.
Luke is said to be a Gentile, a companion to the Apostle Paul, and he gives us this Gospel Account and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke opens that as others have written Accounts of the Apostolic Traditions Concerning Christ, he will likewise recount accurately the history of Christ for the God-lover Christian. In contrast to Matthew and Mark he begins with John the Baptist’s parents and the divine details of Christ Forerunner in the spirit and power of Elijah; then those facts relating to the Virgin Mary and the Divine Conception and the Virgin Birth of Jesus the Son of God, of David’s throne, and of Jacob’s house, and of God’s kingdom. He shows the natural kinship and relations of John and Jesus. Like a good Greek Hellenists writer, he documents those things that Gentiles would most certainly take interests in concerning the biography of a man. Luke gives us the humanity of Christ in a unique inspired way, as Matthew shows His Hebrew and regnal pedigree; and Mark His service and ministry. For in Luke Jesus the Christ is not only a real true Jew and Hebrew via Maria, but also is Man and goes back to Adam the created [son] of God; not only a Jewish Messiah, but the Lord’s Christ for the Gentiles also (Light and Revelation to the Gentiles, and Glory for Israel). Thus, Jesus must learn obedience by growth and sufferings as we all do, thus gain favor and grace with God and man. John commences his ministry and mission to prepare the people for the Christ by his evangelism of Israel with water baptism, and reveals that the Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit and Fire. Christ is baptized, tempted of the Devil (not yet identified personally as Satan as in Matthew and Mark) and is victorious over the Foe, He begins His ministry and mission in and to Israel in the power of the Spirit, by which He speaks and acts in all things according to the Scriptures. Luke presents the conflict and crisis between Jesus and the Jews very early, and shows us that Christ will soon offer the kingdom to the Gentiles, the good news of God’s kingdom for all peoples. His disciples are already with Him but not yet identified unlike the other two Gospels, for in Luke He is Lord and Man, and they are His by right and providence. So, Jesus teaches and works, He heals and leads all according to God and the opposition of the Jews. He is the Groom and His own (still not yet called disciples) are the sons of the bride-chamber, and He will soon bring in a new order and dispensation, which will differ from Judaism, for He as Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Thus, the Jews going insane with intolerant hate towards their Messiah, He turns to His Disciples and chooses 12 and named the Apostles and commences their Christian training for the new missions. The see His works, they have His words, they are to believe and obey Him as Lord, and follow His example to fulfill His commands. John’s disciples are troubled and John himself wonders of the way of Messiah, but He assures John and all others that He is what He says and does, that John is a witness to Him of God’s Witness and Work, that John is the best of human nature but the least compared to the divine nature in God’s kingdom, and that John’s baptism was of God’s counsel to sever between those who are against or for the Christ. The Lord now tours Israel with the Twelve Apostles and His Disciples, in preparation of His Cross and the Resurrection age to follow. His followers are given the kingdom mysteries in parables and the others are blinded and rejected; for Israel by her leaders and builders will reject the King and His Kingdom, and He will turn to the Gentiles. He rejoices in the Holy Spirit, that the Father has revealed the good things to His children, and His Disciples are the Children of God, and His Friends; but they are not to be like the Jews and their leaders, they are not to be like the Gentiles and their rulers, nor to be like the world, but rather to be like Christ. And thus, Luke closes His Account with the Christ and His new people awaiting the Holy Spirit to reveal the new dispensation. That dispensation and age is recorded by Luke in the Acts.
John the Apostle gives us a unique Account of a Unique One and many unique things. The three synoptic Gospels or Evangels are of the natural order for the natural relations that exist in God’s order and nature; the Gospel of John is of a spiritual order and way, altogether above and beyond the other or any Gospel; it was the last to be written by the youngest of the Twelve now an old man and the last surviving Apostle of Apostolic Christianity. This is the believer’s Gospel and as such I need not in these reflections to survey the details of John’s Account, for every believer must be thoroughly acquainted with this Christian Gospel. It is the witness and testimony of the Word to those who are drawn and captured by God in Christ. The Mission is Christ, and Church Missions is Christianity at work in the Church in the world by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit till Christ returns.
The Acts and the 14 Epistles of Paul (Romans to Hebrews) documents the Early Church, that is earliest Christianity; the General or Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude support the Pauline dispensation of Christ among the Gentiles till the Second Advent; and the Apocalypse or the Revelation is the Great Divine Parable of the Present Christian Dispensation and its relations to all the purposes of God from the beginning to the consummation of all things; comprising all that pertains to His creation, salvation, and judgment; and follows the divine history of God’s quest for the Land, the People, and the Book. Christians from the very beginning, after the Apostles had all passed away, looked to the Holy Scriptures, the New Testament Gospels and Letters, to find the will and way of God while we wait for His return. To the degree, we rightly search and understand the Scriptures, helped by the Spirit of God and Christ, to that extent alone will Christian Tradition be measured and corrected in its deviations from the truth as it is found in Jesus. The Early Church Christians and those called the Early Church Fathers are to be valued only as the align themselves with the New Testament, and all doctrines and practices, including Church Missions, are to conform to the written Word of God. The Acts reveals the transition of the Apostolic Missions between the Twelve Apostles to the Jews (the Circumcised), and of Paul and His companions to the Gentiles (non-Jews, the Uncircumcised); then concludes with an unfinished church history with the evangelization of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews. Thus, to ignore Paul’s ministry and writings is to be ignorant of the present dispensation, and such ignorance, long continued in the Catholic Churches hampered many reformers as to church life and church missions. My daughters are of a group, who like so many movements of the past and the present, that seeks to practice New Testament Evangelization according to principles and patterns that they find in Scripture, and to that extent all is commendable. The nature of what the church is, and thus its missions, may find itself at variance with other believers, for the church is very old, and its traditions, creeds, doctrines, and practices are many and some are opposed to those of other churches. I am not the judge of others; the Scriptures are open to each and all; and we will all need to be adjusted in many things. So here it is appropriate to touch on some reflections of those adjustments that concerns Church Missions.
Concerning Church Missions as scrutinized and adjusted by Concerning Our Missions by Watchman Nee and those who agree with and follow him. Nee tells his readers that for almost 20 years they have tested the way as the Little Flock in China, and regarding the Book writes: “One of the prayers I have offered” about “this book is that the Lord should keep it from those who oppose and would use it as a chart for attack”, and “from those who agree and would use it as a manual for service. I dread the latter far more than the former.” He carefully notes the use of “we” in Acts as an example to follow, and the distinction between the Churches and the Work should be maintained in the application of New Testament patterns and principles to our missions. Clearly “concerning our missions” was always intended to be a private case, instructive only to that extent and degree. Every wine production must have its own proper wine-skin suitable to its age and condition, and both are found in Scripture. In review of our experience in church missions, he says, we learn that we must submit to the Lord and His heavenly pattern of both church formation and government, and that we will always need adjustments from time to time. Our great snare is seeking Biblical accuracy of methods and destitute of living experience of Christ’s Headship and Lordship. The entire New Testament is our divine pattern and manual and model. We must seek and find God’s original intent and mind, His perfect will and plan in the Word. Methods are not essential, not eternal, but our spiritual life and relations are vital and requisite in all divine things and service. Christ is both individual and corporate, for members personally and for members as the body, His Body. For Christ to fulfill His great work of salvation of the world, He must first build and perfect His Body, the Church, to share in this Work. The present dispensation is therefore preeminently Body building of the Church. Paul’s Epistles shows us the details and elements of the Church Body and the Work and Ministry. The gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit in the Body and Members are for the edification and maturity of the Church Body. The Universal Church is to be reflected in and expressed in the Local Churches; and suited to each are the offices that are given and produced, as well as their limits and positions locally. Nee and the Little Flock discover that Apostles are sent ones, thus missionaries as commissioned, or ambassadors or delegates. He argues since missionary is Latin for the Greek apostle, why not call them apostles also, that is, missionaries or apostles, and further logical extension, if there are women missionaries then they are apostles, and such he finds in Romans 16:7. No distinction is made of angels or messengers, except that to be sent by the church or a society makes you merely a messenger of men, but sent by divine call of God makes an apostle. The entire Book of Acts is directly and indirectly examined to see the Church and Churches, the Ministry and Ministers, the Work and Workers, the Grounds and Boundary of Locality of the Church, City Churches versus other distinctions and associations. As the Scripture is searched and understood the unscriptural and non-biblical doctrines and practices which exist in the Church everywhere becomes exposed and criticized. The Little Flock were not concerned as to why or how the state and nature of the Church had become so distorted or deviant, but only how it differs from or contradicts the Bible. In time, Nee must criticize the Mission Churches as perpetuating foreign influences on native soil, importin foreign traditions and cultures and values not directly warranted by Scripture. They produce denominational churches which further divides the Body and its oneness. Dealing with Finances, the great test and tempter, he gives us the only Song in the Book:
“There is nothing petty or mean about God’s true servants; they are all great souls. The following lines were penned by Miss M. E. Barber [Missionary to China] on Psalm 23.5 when she had used her last dollar”:
“There is always something over, When we trust our gracious Lord;
Every cup He fills o’erfloweth, His great rivers all are broad.
Nothing narrow, nothing stinted, Ever issued from His store;
To His own He gives full measure, Running over, evermore.”
“There is always something over, When we, from the Father’s Hand,
Take our portion with thanksgiving, Praising for the path He planned.
Satisfaction, full and deepening, Fills the soul, and lights the eye,
When the heart has trusted Jesus All its need to satisfy.”
“There is always something over, When we tell of all His love;
Unplumbed depths still lie beneath us, Unscaled heights rise far above.
Human lips can never utter All His wondrous tenderness.
We can only praise and wonder And His Name for ever bless.”
My concern in Church Missions is commending the good of Christian service to the Lord whenever and wherever found, and seeking to encourage others’ labors for Him without approval of their defects or errors. The locality of the church is very important in the doctrine and practice of church truth for all Christians. It is most important domestically, and even more so in the mission field of peoples with little history of Christianity. Since the days of the Moravian Brethren through the Plymouth Brethren and then the Little Flock of China and the Lord’s Recovery in America, the desire to overcome this madness of denominational proliferation and to return to more simplicity of locality and function. The Methodists and the Pentecostal with the Charismatics growing so rapidly and exponentially has virtually negated the grounds advanced by some to imprison the Church in a fixed system unable to be freed. As with natural population growth with all the difficulties of supply and demand, of needs and feeds, so in global evangelization the health and nurture of the Church Body is very neglected and deficient. We have too many babies who are perpetual children in the kingdom of God, constantly trying every sort of games, parties, plays, ideas, and countless other things in substitution of Christ and God. So, though I have given my favor to my daughters for their missionary endeavors, it is with a heavy heart and sighs that the problem is only adding to the confusion. Yet if Christ is preached, trusted, glorified, by any, and by what means of regeneration that the Holy Spirit uses, we must all rejoice of every one that comes to God in Christ, to enlarge His kingdom and harvest. This said, I believe I have answered for my accountability and responsibility as a Christian and as a father. mjm.
The Church and the Churches. Sister Eva of Friedenshort, adapted. (October 31, 1866 – June 21, 1930)
The “churches” here below, so narrow bound,
Reach not the hungry throngs which us surround;
They run partway with truth, but miss the goal.
Earth-vision blurred and dim, their eyes doth hold—
But broken gleams have they of radiance gold;
Too dazzling is the splendor of the whole.
Brothers with brothers have not all one heart,
In wrath they turn away and walk apart,
Who from one stream of life had common birth.
What fight for forms! O’er doctrines what vain strife!
Instead together sharing God’s one life,
Who worshipped is by heaven and by earth.
“Where is the truth?” I asked; for this I longed:
None answered right ’mid all the answering throng;
For ever side by side lay light and shade.
“Where is,” I cried, “the one communion pure?
Where is the Church in which, clear-traced and sure,
The Spirit’s very likeness is portrayed?”
So sought I long, and hopeless was my quest;
These eyes grew dim and blind and found no rest,
Till God’s touch opened them, and I was freed.
I found the Spirit’s Church in souls made one
In this, that they in truth to Christ had come—
His Bride, to follow where the cross may lead.
Thus when I see this small world’s narrow thought,
Behold the brother not with brother brought,
Yet serving Christ—as each one deemeth right—
Ah, then a voice from realms of glory calls,
Where the last veil is rent and earthward falls,
And where God’s love, eternal, burneth bright.
No more we put that query without end,
To which self-chosen church our feet did trend—
What doctrines we believed, what sacred rites.
In Christ we were in bonds that nought could break;
Who, by His cross and death, do all forsake,
Such as were far asunder He unites.
No longer does one heed mere formal phrase,
Or seek for others’ creeds through winding maze,
For in Himself was truth made manifest.
And out of every tongue and every land
He formed one Church to meet His own demand—
His Body, where His fulness is expressed.
““I shall pass this way but once, any good thing that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (from her Diary)
“Born Eva von Tiele-Winckler in southeastern Germany into a family of wealth, Eva had a conversion experience at the age of 17 after reading John 10. She established a home called Friedenshort (abode of peace) for women who desired to follow and serve the Lord. With these sisters, she opened homes for orphans, widows, the poor, and the infirm. By the end of her life, over 40 homes were set up around Germany through her labor. These sisters also preached the gospel to women in prison and established homes for them when they were discharged from prison. Although she was brought up in wealth, she lived a simple life using her wealth for the benefit of others. She eventually sent out a number of sisters to serve in China with the China Inland Mission, and to Guatemala, Africa, and India. She was helped in her spiritual pursuit through contact with Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Hudson Taylor, the Welsh Revival, and the Keswick Convention. Sister Eva enjoyed fellowship with all true believers. She would not let any sectarian attitude or doctrinal differences hinder her fellowship with other saints. This hymn describes the divisive conditions of the church and her longing to find believers who live in oneness, not letting doctrines and practices divide them. It is a sober reminder to us that our divine birth is a common birth and that Christ’s death has torn down all that divides believers.”