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Published by Paul Sandberg

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Published by: Paul Sandberg on Jun 25, 2011
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June 19, 2011
2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 ³Making Disciples´Dr. Ted H. SandbergJesus came and said to them, ³All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Gotherefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Sonand of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Andremember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.´Despite this command from Jesus, ³In the beginning the [Early Church] was hardly more than a familyaffair. The followers of Christ remained near the places they associated with [Jesus¶] career, the sitesof his wonderful works. They measured the health of the churches by their degree of proximity tothese centers. Members of his family were held in special esteem. There seemed to be little vision of a horizon beyond the Palestinian provinces he had honored in his humanity. The Synoptic Gospels[Matthew, Mark, and Luke], which reflect the condition of the Church in its early development,reproduce words which suggest this limitation of mission. They recall an original charge of Jesus tothe twelve disciples: µGo nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but gorather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.¶[Matthew 10:5-6]´
 Acts shows us that things in the church gradually changed. They changed because some within whatwas essentially a Jewish-Christian sect wanted to reach out to Gentiles. Why? Because they knewthey had the Good News of Jesus Christ and they wanted to share that news.
vision of Christwas broader than many leaders of the early church, leaders like James ± Jesus¶ brother, and Peter.Their concern was for the lost no matter that the lost were not Jewish. Their concern may well have been for Greek speaking Gentiles because they themselves were Greek speaking. Whatever the reasonfor their concern, some within the early church pushed the leaders to reach out to the Gentiles. Thefirst major leader in this movement was Stephen, ³who appears and disappears within a moment. . . .The speech which Acts 7 preserves in association with Stephen shows him to have been a prophet of the larger vision, one destined to clash with the Jewish authorities for his activities in attacking their exclusivism.´
 They stoned Stephen for his radical thinking, but Philip picked up the radical idea that the Good Newswas for more than the Jews and went to Samaria to preach Jesus Christ. ³Others carried the work toCyprus, Antioch, and Phoenicia.´
Eventually, as we all know, Paul became the leader of themovement to spread the message of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul, who had been Saulthe great persecutor of the church, the same Saul who had watched over the garments of those who¶dstoned Stephen, Paul became
the great
missionary to the non-Jewish world. Paul went out into theworld to proclaim that God loved
people and that Jesus died for 
people ± well at least the peopleof Europe and western Asia. The church historian, Martin Marty writes, ³Because the Kingdom of God which Christ had announced had µthe tendency to become a universal religion¶ (Holtzmann) fromthe first, it is difficult for contemporary Christians to picture that only [two centuries] ago themovement was still identified with Europe and western Asia, and with new outposts in the western
1. Marty, Martin, A Short History of Christianity, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1959, p. 36.2. Ibid., p. 393. Ibid. p. 40.
hemisphere. Africa, Australia, the greater part of Asia were hardly touched.. . It was surprising howlittle Christianity had done to become, according to its own profession of its genius, universal,realizing its catholicity.´
 It wasn¶t until the 1790's that the modern Christian mission movement was born through the work of the cobbler William Carey, that Congregationalist turned Baptist. On May 31, 1792, he preached amissionary sermon on a text from Isaiah which included a call to µexpect great things from God andattempt great things for God.¶´
Carey obeyed his own call and went off to India, but he wasn¶t alone.Missionaries from other denominations followed Carey¶s call to obey Jesus¶ command to makedisciples of all the world, and our modern mission movement was finally back on track from the daysof Stephen and Paul.Baptists have continued to be leaders in the attempt to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to
  people throughout the world. Being as individualistic as we Baptists are, it took the Great Call tosupport the work of missionaries throughout the world to bring us together. Because no individualchurch could financially support a world-wide missions effort, Baptist churches joined together toaccomplish this mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. Missions continues to be our #1 priority as a denomination.Because missions is such a priority, Baptists have many heroes of the faith to which we can point with pride. We know of Adoniram and Ann Judson, the pioneer Congregationalist missionaries to Burmawhose convictions led them to receive believer¶s baptism and become Baptists as they were travelingto Burma. Their ministry initiated the 1814 formation of the American Baptist Foreign MissionSociety which is now our International Ministries. Adoniram was imprisoned for 21 months duringthe war between England and Burma. He focused on evangelism and Scripture translation. TheBaptist movement grew to 7000 members and more than 100 national ministers by the time of Adoniram¶s death in 1850. Ann¶s suffering, extensive correspondence and early death in Burmaattracted many Americans to the support of international ministry.There are many other less well known missionaries. Jesse Bushyhead was born in the Cherokee Nation in 1804. He was appointed by the Foreign Mission Society to work with missionary EvanJones as an interpreter and itinerant preacher. In 1833 Bushyhead became the first ordained Cherokeeminister and in Amohee, TN, founded the first indigenous Cherokee church. His ministry alsoincluded Bible translation and lobbying Congress against the forced removal of Native Americansfrom their land. He accompanied and ministered to the Cherokee on the ³Trail of Tears´ along withEvan and John B. Jones. Bushyhead later served on the Cherokee Supreme Court and was appointedChief Justice.Lulu Fleming was born in Hibernia, FL in 1862. She graduated from Shaw University with a call tomission work. In 1887, at age 25, she went to Palabala, Congo, as the first African American singlewoman missionary appointed by American Baptists. When ill health forced her to return to the U.S.,Fleming used her recovery time to pursue medical studies. After graduating as a physician, shereturned to Congo as an American Baptist medical missionary. The rigors of pioneer mission service
4. Ibid., p. 319.5. Ibid., p. 319.
 brought her to her death at age 37.Astrid Peterson lived to serve Christ and the Chinese people. Following seminary and Chinesestudies, Astrid was appointed in 1930 by the Woman¶s American Baptist Foreign Mission Society toserve in West China. For 21 years she taught English and Bible at a Baptist girls¶ high school,continuing her work even during World War II when the school was evacuated to the countryside.Political conditions in China forced Astrid to return to the U.S. in 1951. She continued to serveChinese people in San Francisco under appointment of the Home Mission Society. She led a ChineseBible class until age 96.
 I could go on and on sharing biographies of our missionaries from the past. I could do the same thingfor those missionaries who are proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world today ±  people like Duane and Marcia Binkley serving in Thailand, Glen & Rita Chapman serving in theDemocratic Republic of Congo, Gustavo & Joan Parajón in Nicaragua, and Lauren Bethel ± currentlyserving as what¶s called a Global Specialist but formerly the one who did such great work with theyoung girls sold by their families into prostitution in Thailand. American Baptists work hard to obeyJesus¶ teaching to ³Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father andof the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that [Jesus has commandedus.]´ We can be very proud of how God uses our missionary efforts. As William Carey preached solong ago, we can and should ³expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.´We¶re very good as American Baptists at sending out missionaries, be they foreign or homemissionaries. We¶re not nearly as good, however, at being missionaries ourselves I¶m afraid. As adenomination we¶re evangelistic ± committed to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with all peopleeverywhere. As individuals though, we¶re not nearly as committed to sharing the Good News withothers. I¶m not sure why this is. Maybe we¶re too busy. Maybe we don¶t know non-Christians.Maybe we¶re embarrassed to talk about something as personal as our faith. Maybe we¶re afraid we¶ll be made outcasts if we share our faith. Maybe we don¶t know what to say. Maybe we think that wedon¶t know enough to witness to non-Christians. Maybe it¶s a little of all of those. Maybe we¶re justcontent to let the missionaries spread the Gospel, or to let the preacher share the message of JesusChrist.Jesus¶ command, however, wasn¶t to, ³Go therefore and hire men and women to make disciples of allnations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Train andsupport missionaries and pastors to teach people to obey everything that I have commanded you.´Jesus commands each of us, the brave and the not-so-brave, the extrovert and the introvert, the youngand the old, men and women, rich and poor, busy and not-so-busy ± Jesus commands all of us to makedisciples of all people everywhere.When I was growing up, occasionally missionaries would visit our church and tell of their work. Mostof the time, they¶d also issue a call to become a missionary, to join them in the Congo or Thailand or Burma, join them in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Japan or Africa. I haven¶t
6. ³Profiles from The American Baptist Foreign Mission Society,´ International Ministries,American Baptist Churches USA, PO Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851, (IM 44575M 4/01), Profiles of Adoniram and Ann Judson, Jesse Bushyhead, Lulu Fleming, andAstrid Peterson.

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