In studying once again the missionary journeys of Paul for a series of sermons I am currently preaching, I have been reminded that Paul focused his ministry on the big cities of the Roman world. He seems to have been suited for urban life, as one who grew up in the cities of Tarsus (“no mean city” – Acts 21:39) and Jerusalem, where he sat at the feet of the great rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). In Acts 13, he was serving in the church of the great city of Antioch (the third largest city in the Roman empire, called “the Queen City”). In his missionary journeys, he invariably went to the great cities of the various provinces – Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Berea, Rome, etc. Paul did not blaze a trail through the bush, as David Livingstone did in Africa; he traveled down cobblestone streets and great Roman highways. Yet he is our model missionary in the New Testament. The city churches that he established reached out into the entire region around them (see 1 Thess. 1:8).
Have you ever heard someone make a statement like this: “We had a missionary visit last Sunday who is going to England” (or France or Ireland or Bermuda or Hawaii, etc). “Boy, they are going to be suffering, huh?” Have you ever thought it yourself?
Sometimes Christians reflect the attitude that someone isn’t really a missionary unless it involves jungles, leeches, lions and at least the threat of dying from some exotic disease or being eaten by a cannibal. Missionaries to developed countries are sometimes treated as though their ministry location is merely a “vacation spot” instead of a mission field with its own set of difficulties and hardships.
Of course, our hats are off to the great army of missionaries who serve faithfully in primitive conditions. And my point is not that we should only focus on big cities or developed countries. Obviously we are to go to every creature and into all the world.
My point is that you don’t need a jungle to be a missionary. Your mission field might be a great concrete city teaming with millions of people. Your mission field might be a bus route in the projects or on the poor side of town. Your mission field might be a prison. Your mission field might be a suburb. A mission field is wherever souls are in need of Jesus Christ.
Missionaries serving faithfully in developed countries do not have a cakewalk. Friends in Europe and other places have to deal with people that are steeped in false religions, addictions, social morals and practices that are contrary to the gospel. Sin abounds. Hearts are hard. Is it not really a mission field because the missionary sleeps in an apartment and drives a car?
America has its great cities that are in need of gospel-preaching, soul-winning churches. Church planters are missionaries in the cities, suburbs and towns of America. Europe’s great cities need men who preach the gospel as opposed to the State religions and their works-based churches. Great cities in Asia, Africa, South and Central America, Australia, and in all the places of the world, need a Paul to come and preach the gospel. And even some of those “vacation spots” aren’t quit so beautiful when you get away from the tourist spots.
Thank you for reading. God bless.