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Acts 13:13; 14:2627; 26:1519; Galatians 2:610comment (0)

December 22, 2008

By James C. Pounds Jr.

Related Scripture: Acts 13:13; 14:2627; 26:1519

Bible Studies for Life
Director of the Extension Division, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Acts 13:1–3; 14:26–27; 26:15–19; Galatians 2:6–10

As we conclude our four-week missions study, it’s important that a discussion take place regarding those called to invest their lives as career missionaries. The Bible makes it clear that God wants all people to hear the gospel preached before the return of Christ and He uses many means to accomplish this. And one of the ways God reaches many of the lost is through the efforts of men and women who invest their lives as missionaries in other cultures. We should all contemplate what this means to us.

Missionaries Are Called (Acts 26:15–19; Gal. 2:6–10)
What exciting passages. First, Luke described Paul’s encounter with King Agrippa. It is in this meeting that Paul explained that he was called by Christ to take the gospel message to the Gentiles — and that he had not been disobedient to that assignment. Then, in his letter to the Galatians, the apostle drew a clear distinction between his call to preach to the Gentiles and Peter’s call to evangelize the Jews. Paul knew the role God had assigned him and never wavered in his passion for the work.

Missionaries Are Commissioned (Acts 13:1–3)
While worshiping in Antioch, the Holy Spirit called the church to “set apart” Barnabas and Saul (later called Paul) for a specific mission. The church recognized what a unique experience it had been a part of and obeyed. First, there was fasting and prayer for the two, then hands were laid on them and finally, in response to the Lord’s leading, they were sent off with the church’s support and blessing.

Missionaries Are Connected (Acts 14:26–27)
Upon completing this first missionary journey, Luke explained that Paul and Barnabas returned to their commissioning church in Antioch. Once there, they gathered all of their supporters and shared all of the things God had done through them for the Gentiles. The passage seems to make it clear that this report was very moving — so much so those who were there “stayed a long time with the disciples.”

As you think back over the implications of these passages, one of the things that ought to immediately become evident is that God calls individuals to become missionaries. And in the texts we are studying this week, these were “career” assignments for Paul and Barnabas. Like them, some believers are called by God to live out their Christian witness as long-term, cross-cultural missionaries.

As we saw in the Acts 13 passage, the call to missionary service is corporate as well as personal. Just as God’s call is placed on the individual, it is also affirmed in the local church. In our own churches, we need to provide opportunities for our members to explore missions possibilities. This can be achieved quite easily by offering exposure to missions organizations for all age groups as well as sponsoring missions trips and projects.

Furthermore, just as the Antioch church did, we need to keep in regular contact with missionaries in our own congregations. This is a vital connection for the church and the missionary, and it has great benefits for both. This can be achieved in a great number of ways including letter writing, hosting missionaries on furlough and even inviting them back from the “field” for a visit with the church.

Who is a missionary? It’s a question many have asked as children in Sunday School and adults exploring the meaning of the title. But perhaps the question all of us need to ask at some point in our lives is “Am I called to be a missionary?”

God does call men and women to leave the world they are in and, like Paul, accept an assignment in another land to share the gospel with those who have not yet had the opportunity to hear the news of the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Southern Baptists support about 5,000 career missionaries all throughout the world. And each one of these had to be called by God at some point in his or her life. We need to provide opportunities for believers to explore whether they are called to respond in this way. Even still, perhaps those of us who are reading this need to ask God if He might be calling us to full-time service in this most important role. The answer might surprise us or then again, it might not. We’ll never know until we ask.

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