The Church of Jesus Christ Exists for the Purpose of Its Nonmembers

At its first General Assembly in December 1861, the Presbyterian Church in the United States (at that time known as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, and the direct ancestor of the Presbyterian Church in America, in which denomination I minister) heard a report from its Committee on Foreign Missions. This paragraph is an incredible statement of the necessity, glory, and power of missions in the life of the church. It should stir the heart of every believer in Jesus Christ, motivating us to pray, give and go so that His gospel reign might be known among the nations:

Finally, the General Assembly desires distinctly and deliberately to inscribe on our church’s banner as she now first unfurls it to the world, in immediate connection with the Headship of her Lord, His last command: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;” regarding this as the great end of her organization, and obedience to it as the indispensable condition of her Lord’s promised presence, and as one great comprehensive object a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which in connection with the love of Christ can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources, so as to cause her to carry on with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, those other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity. The claims of this cause ought therefore to be kept constantly before the minds of our people and pressed upon their consciences – and every minister owes it to his people and to a perishing world to give such instruction on this subject as he is able; and to this end the monthly concert ought to be devoutly observed by every church on the first Sabbath of each month for the purpose of missionary instruction as well as prayer, and it would be well to accompany their prayers with their offerings. To the same end the Assembly earnestly enjoins upon all our ministers and ruling elders and deacons and Sabbath school teachers, and especially upon parents, particular attention to our precious youth in training them to feel a deep interest in this work, and not only to form habits of systematic benevolence, but to feel and respond to the claims of Jesus upon them for personal service in the field. And should a Sabbath school paper be established, they recommend that at least page be exclusively devoted to this subject.

One sentence in that statement is confusing yet so significant: “[The missionary command of Jesus is] one great comprehensive object a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which in connection with the love of Christ can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources, so as to cause her to carry on with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, those other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity.” Our forefathers are declaring that the work of missions (foreign missions in particular!) is a comprehensive object, aim, & purpose of the church, and that it is only as we properly conceive of its vast magnitude and grandeur, and as our hearts are filled with the love of Christ (both His love for us and our love for Him!), that our efforts and resources (of people and money) will be sufficiently aroused to carry on vigorously and efficiently the work of the church at home, unto our growth and spiritual prosperity. Do we believe this? Do we believe that advancing the cause of Christ around the globe is this important? Do we believe that it has this sort of an effect on our people at home, and even that it alone has this sort of an effect? Our Presbyterian ancestors did, and their missionary commitment both at home and abroad demonstrated this belief. Pastors, do we keep the cause of missions before our people constantly? Do we pray with our people to this end? Do we teach our children to love missions? May the Lord continue to grant us a heart for his work among the nations, for Christ Jesus is the only door to the Father, the sure door to the Father, and the life-giving door to the Father (John 10:1-10).

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