Students: Whom Shall I Send?
Debunking myths of isolation and deprivation and finding the depths of God's love in mission.
Whom shall I send? and who will go for Us?" You probably recognize this question and recall Isaiah's response: "Here am I. Send me!" (Is. 6:8) So often this verse is used to demonstrate that God seeks volunteers to be His missionary messengers to the world. But look more closely at the context. God instructs Isaiah to "go, and tell this people"Isaiah's own people, the Israeliteswho had abandoned their God. The message? Well, on the surface it doesn't seem to be an offer of hope and salvation for the world. I guess there's one less verse than we thought in the Bible about missions.
How many missions-focused verses are there in the Bible? If the one week we devote for a missions conference out of 52 weeks in the year is a proper measure, we should expect to find only about 615 verses in the Bible (1 in 52) that reflect God's mission program. Is this the priority we convey when mobilizing men and women as God's laborers in the worldwide harvest fields?
For over fifteen years the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement study program has seen countless Christian students at Texas A&M University committing their lives to serving God in the harvest. Yet most of them would have found it difficult at the start of their college career to identify even six verses that suggest the priority of missions. For many young people the very thought of "missions" at the start of their college years conjured up unattractive images of deprivation and isolation for people not well suited for other careers. Why then, just a few years later, would so many students choose this direction in life?
Like so many others in their generation, they are looking for something truly worthy of the investment of their lives. The many excellent churches and Christian student organizations in the university and surrounding community have helped to nurture their desire to know God more intimately. The Perspectives study program has been a tool for understanding God's ways and His purpose in our world. This course is often the turning point for major life decisions. What message is it sending?
As one student explained it, "I've learned the importance of missions in the Bible and how it pervades throughout and should be such within our own lives." Now wait a minute! How can they say those few verses on missions "pervade" Scripture?
In their desire to know God, they've discovered that from Genesis to Revelation, Scripture is about God being glorified by all peoples of the world. That is the true heart of "missions," being used of God to help people of other nations also come to know and join in worshiping the true and living God.
This main theme pervades many familiar passages of Scripture, yet often we don't see it. Why did God part the Red Sea and Jordan River when the Israelites were moving out of Egypt and into Canaan? In part to provide safe passage for His chosen people. But God could have used boats, bridges or alternate routes. Joshua 4:24 says God dried up the crossings to "that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty." Word sure got out to all nations about these miracles. Rahab the harlot was one of many Gentiles who praised the true and living God because of such acts (Josh 3:10-11).
"Send me" has been the response to God of a growing number of youth in the College Station, Texas area. In the last five years alone, 258 have taken the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course (one graduating class pictured here)
Seeing that this theme underlies all of Scripture led one student to remark, "I will never read the Bible the same again." That student chose to spend nine weeks the following summer helping plant churches in South America. This theme is reflected in every book of the Bible in literally thousands of verses.
No longer are these students asking, "What is God's will for my life?" That question places the primary focus on themselves. As one student observed, "Christianity is all about Him, not about us." Instead, they're asking, "What is God's ultimate plan, and where do I fit in?" They are discovering God's heart, and in so doing their hearts begin to beat in sync with His!
The priority of missions in Scripture provides confidence that God's eternal purpose is worth the investment of one's life. The Biblical model demonstrates that God typically chooses to use His people to present His glory to peoples that do not yet worship Him.
These Biblical principles are reinforced through stories of God's works in our time. Whether from a fellow student after a summer ministry project or from a longer-term missionary home on furlough, students are challenged by stories of God's work. First-hand accounts from those with whom young people can relate demonstrate God's steadfast faithfulness and the depth of experience with God that can result from entrusting one's life to Him. These are powerful messages. Instead of equating "missions" with deprivation and isolation, "missions" becomes associated with provision and intimacy. Moreover, seeing real life people being used mightily by God helps them realize God wants to use normal people like themselves if only they will yield to God by faith.
Although only a few of our students begin the Perspectives course intending to minister cross-culturally, toward the end of the program they become excited by the opportunities. Students in the most recent class are looking forward to developing relationships with international students, expatriates in the business community, refugees, and inner city youth locally. Many are trusting God for other opportunities in more than 20 countries in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia. Some of these opportunities involve partnerships with multiple organizations including indigenous groups in the target region. They are seeing the world change as God's glory is brought to the nations!
Isaiah was the only volunteer recorded in Scripture who responded to God's call for a messenger. Likewise, our generation needs more people willing to help others hear and understand God's call to obedience resulting in His glory being revealed to all peoples. Is this missions application of Isaiah's account out of context? Or is it true that the missions theme pervades all of Scripture? Read the vision in Isaiah 6:3. The angel's message acknowledges God's ultimate objective in this world: "The whole earth is full of His glory!"
The priority of missions in Scripture provides confidence that God's eternal purpose is worth the investment of one's life.