What Is Real Missions?
by Pastor Tommy Ashcraft
Mount Hebron Baptist Church, Monterrey, Mexico
Preached at Berean Baptist Church | Mission Conference 1994 | Orange Park, Florida | Dr. Tom Neal, Pastor
Turn in your Bible to Acts 13:1-5 ... I am concerned as a preacher, as a Baptist, as a Missionary, about some of the things and some of the trends I have seen in this matter of Missions. According to 1st Corinthians 14:33, "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." I get the impression from time to time that people in our churches, people who sit in our pews, Pastors, and unfortunately all to often Missionaries, are just somewhat overwhelmed; even to the point of confusion about this thing of missions. We mystify missions. We aggrandize (I have to use a word like that sometimes so you will know I went to school.), but we aggrandize missionaries. I am not taking one thing away from the greatness of the men who have blazed the trail ahead of me, and of these other men in this other area of foreign missions. I think all to often there is too distinct a line drawn, and there is too large of a difference made between what is done here and what is done there; and the way it is done here and the way it is done there. An airplane trip or an ocean voyage doesn't change one thing in this Book. Geography has nothing to do with the commands and the mandates and the principals of this Blessed Book.
Where is the lady that sang? - there she is. People do need the Lord, that is the bottom line. They need one thing. They don't need an anthropologist. (I'm getting ahead of myself.). They don't need a sociologist, they don't need someone who has been to seminary and learned missiology and logistics. People need one thing. They need to know that they are sinners and they are bound for hell and they need to be saved. They need the same thing you needed when you got saved, or, that you need tonight if you are not saved.
God has a definite, simple, workable, effective plan for reaching the world with the Gospel and basically it is right here in Acts 13. The enemy's tactic for detaining that plan is confusion. He doesn't want you to know what you are supposed to do. If he can get well meaning people to put out a whole bunch of stuff that is not really necessary; stuff that doesn't have one thing to do with getting people into the Kingdom; even though it sounds good and it looks good, even though sometimes it feels good; that's all he wants. If we could just keep in mind what God wants us to do, and if we could just keep it to a few basic things, we would be better off. Its when we try to get cute that we clutter things up. We get confused and get off the track.
I'll be honest with you. I go to a lot of Missions Conferences and they look like religious, evangelistic trade shows. Its just a bunch of one-upmanship! Well I'm doing it this way, and I'm doing it that way: And then some idiot gets up and says, "well you know - methods change, and it doesn't make any difference how you do it just as long as it gets the job done"; and that is exactly what the enemy wants you to think. There is a God ordained message and as surely as the message is ordained the method is ordained!
Now I want you to look at Acts 13...Now there were in the local organization of ministers and wonderful Christians - Noooo, now what does it say? "Now there were in the" -(Hey! don't mess with that.) - they were in the church. This was a local, independent, fundamental, Baptist, soul winning, red-hot, preaching, separated church. God's plan for world evangelism starts and ends in the church. It is a church issue. It is not a denominational issue. I don't know where in the world we got the idea that we have to have this huge machine. It is not an association issue. It is a church issue. It is not a fellowship issue. It is a church issue. It is not a convention issue, it is a church issue. One step away from the church is one step away from God's plan. Now if you take it out of the Church do you know what you have done? You have killed it. If you take it away from the church and put it under anything else - you've killed it.
That's why William Carey's work is not going on, that's why Adoniram Judson's work is not going on, that's why J. Hudson Taylor's work is not going on; because they were put under a society, by well-meaning, good men. Good men build bad machinery. God has only promised perpetuity to a church, nothing else. Everything must start with a church. It must be done under a church. I don't understand what problem people have with the church. Jesus loved the church. Jesus established his church. Jesus died for the church and he promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church and we would do well to channel all of our activities, all of our giving, all of our soul winning, all of our missionary work and all of our activities through the church. Let your life revolve around your church.
By the way, don't send your faith promise offering to me. I' m not a church. I'm not your church, this is your church. Don't send it to PTL either. I mean if you've got to make a choice - send it to me. Don't' send it to TBN, or CBN or the Sword of the Lord, or Revival Fires! I'm talking about your tithe and offering! Put it in your church and if your church wants to support those folks let the church do it. Don't send it to Jerry Falwell either. (Oh well, its the last night I just might as well let it all hang out.) You dummy. You idiot. You write out a check to those organizations (and this church where your spiritual life comes from). . . why don't you call Jerry and ask him to come preach a funeral? Why don't you let him marry your daughter? You say - I don't think you should call names - well don't do it then, let me do it - I don't mind. Boy you're smart aren't you? You know what you remind me of - You remind me of somebody who eats at McDonalds and pays his bill at Burger King. Why don't you try that? Why don't you buy a Ford and try paying General Motors? You reckon your wife might wish she would have married something a little higher on the food chain? I don't know what in the world the problem is that people have with the Church.
My wife and I went to the mission field in 1969. I went in 1960 with my parents, stayed there from 60-65 and went back to attend school from 65-69, and then went back to the field in 1969 and we began in 1969 to work as many missionaries do, in a traditional type mission work. Our plan was to do as most missionaries do. Please understand me, please believe me, I'm not criticizing, I'm not judging anybody else or the way anybody else works. I have friends that work this way, they are good men and I love them. And I wouldn't do one thing to distract from what they are doing. They're getting people saved. I'm not going to touch anybody that's getting people saved. But we started and for 12 years our philosophy was: we're not going to do the work - we're going to train others to do the work. The only problem is, how do you train somebody to do something that they've never seen anybody do? And another thing was, I was trying to train men to do things I'd never done. I'd never pastored a church, and we'd send missionaries to the field who have never pastored a church, to train men to do something that they'd never done.
Now verse one says, "There were in the church at Antioch certain prophets, and teachers. You know what a prophet is, it's a preacher. There were preachers and teachers. Notice that it does not say - teachers and preachers! There were preachers and teachers; in that order. That's what missionary work is. It is preaching and teaching. It's getting the news out and the primary; number one, first priority job of a missionary is to preach! I'll go home tomorrow night. We have our mid-week service on Thursday night and do you know what our folks will get tomorrow night? They'll get preaching!
Do you know what we did? In 1981 we just kind-of took a step back. We realized that there was something wrong. And the something wrong was - we were teaching men but we were not training them, and we were getting nowhere fast. I cannot go into all the story, but through travail, and pain, and sorrow - Mount Hebron Baptist Church was born. And it revolutionized what we were trying to do. It is not the same work. It is not the same ministry. Do you know what Mount Hebron is? It is a local church, doing its best to reach everybody that it can in the area; with the Gospel. Bringing a bunch of preacher boys in to a red hot, charged, soul winning, preaching atmosphere and training them and showing them how to do it. We're showing them how to do things here so they can do the same things when they get out there without anybody helping them. When they leave here they can just go out there and dig it out of the rocks and start another one. Now that is Bible missionary philosophy.
God called me to start and pastor Mount Hebron Baptist Church. That is a departure from traditional missionary methods. The traditional missionary method is: A man goes to the mission field and in four years, (and much of this is caused by pressure from home; from his mission board and from his supporting churches), they expect him to start a church, train somebody, buy a piece of property, build a building, leave a church when he leaves, and, (this is our favorite phrase) turn it over to the nationals. Turn it over to the nationals! I don't know where that came from! I don't know what well-known authority on mission strategy, came up with that!
I had a pastor friend who said, "brother Ashcraft, when are you going to turn that church over to" -(this is what we call indigenous mission work) - show me that in the Bible? Let me remind you of something, in Acts chapter 13 there is a list of five pastors. Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul: All of them foreigners. None of them from Antioch. And the church at Antioch may I remind you, if you anything about the new testament church, if you know anything the church at Antioch, you know it was the greatest missionary church in the book of Acts! You see, that's the hoax of the so-called indigenous church, and don't you go out of here saying that I'm against a national pastoring a church. That's what were there for. It's to get them to do it! But in order to get them to do it, they've got to see somebody else do it.
Every student enrolled in Mount Hebron Bible Baptist Institute, except the ones that come from churches in their immediate area; where they go back to their churches on a weekend and work; they go back to attend their own churches. Everyone [other students] of them is a member of Mount Hebron Baptist Church. None of the students work in the `A' Sunday school. We started a `B' Sunday school, and the students work in the `B' Sunday school, the `B' bus ministry, and the `B' children's church. The `A' Sunday school, the `A' children's church, and the `A' bus ministry is all church people. Our preacher boys go out on Tuesday nights street preaching. They've got to be involved in two soul winning programs, and in one visitation program every week. And we hold their feet to the fire.
On Sunday night (or Thursday night) a couple of months ago, I was preaching and I said, "Hey! You preacher boys, you students: You got to much to do, don't you!" (You see, they're in a church here, they're not in some dry, dusty, institution of higher learning, they're in a church - a red hot preaching church!) I walked around to the seniors. (These are the guys that are graduating in May.) I said, "you're too busy to get people saved and get them down the aisle and get them to the baptistery aren't you? Your too busy - you've just got to much to do. You've got one mouth to feed and you've got one tuition bill to pay, and then all you have to do besides that is go to school and get people saved." I said, "Now, I don't have anything to do. I only oversee five budgets, and three schools, and a church, and preach in at least one conference a month, and sometimes two, and preach five times a week; and teach six classes in the institute a week, and a Sunday school class, and work up Sunday school material for our Sunday school; and oversee twenty-three full time workers, and besides that - I don't have anything to do."
I started walking around saying, "where are yours? Where are the ones you brought? Hey! Where's the men that you've won and are now soul winning? Here's one of mine. He's a soul winner, he's a tither, he sings in the choir, he works in the Sunday school, he's a bus driver. Where's yours? Come on, come on, call them out ! Where are they? Come on where are they?" You see, you can't do that in some dry, dusty, institute of higher learning. The only place you can do that is in a church. Praise God for Church! (When I get my glasses on, I'm going to go another round.)
Of course we are to train the nationals. But you cannot train them without doing it; without hands on training. How do you train national leadership? I'm not trying to train leadership, I'm trying to train followship. Jesus didn't say, lead me and I'll make you fishers of men. He said, "Follow me!" So what you have to do is - do it, and then you have to say, "hey guys come on, come on, follow me, here's the way to do it: I'm going to do it, I'm going to show you how to do it and you do it too!" And then you scream, and you holler, and you spit, and you throw fits, and you show them how to do it. (Good night, I'm just through verse one).
Look at verse two. It says, "and as they ministered unto the Lord'. Do you know what that means? They served. These five men were serving. They were serving God. They were working. It says they fasted. I'll come back to that in a minute. The Holy Ghost said, "separate me Barnabas and Saul. Now, I want you to know something here; God called two men of five. Not two of a hundred. He named five preachers, and He said OK, of the five preachers in this church I want two of them. I don't know if I have to say a whole lot more about that? Not only are we off on our philosophy, we are off on our proportion. We've got 2% of the workers working with 98% of the people. We've got 98% of the workers working with 2% of the people, and 2% of the workers working with 98% of the people. Now when God called out the men, and when God said, "separate unto me", he called 40% of them. That's almost half. And He said, "unto the work." I'm sorry to have to use that four-letter word - "work" and by the way, it is work. You take all the stars and all the glitter, and all the glamour out of your eyes. Because there ain't no glitter, there ain't no glamour, and there ain't no stars.
Hey, I'm going to get on a plane tomorrow, and I'm going to go to Mexico. That plane ride is going to last about three hours, and after that three hours reality is going to hit. When that guy picks me up at the airport tomorrow he's gonna have a whole sack full of problems that I'm going to have to deal with before I get to church tomorrow night.
Then it says in verse three, "and when they (the church) had fasted and prayed" - boy there's a sermon right there. They fasted and prayed. Fasting speaks of sacrifice. Fasting is conditioning to do without. Fasting is bringing your appetite under subjection. Fasting is controlling your appetite instead of your appetite controlling you. Fasting is deciding what your flesh will do instead of letting your flesh decide what you will do. And the missionary program of Berean Baptist Church will not be what it ought to be until there is some sacrifice. When you make out your faith promise card tonight or Sunday, you must remember this is not a tip! And this is not what you have left over. If it doesn't cost you anything God doesn't want it. David said he would not give God anything that didn't cost him something. He just wouldn't do it! God has always been served and worshipped by sacrifice. From the gardens of Eden to Mount Moriah, to today, God has always been worshipped and served by sacrifice. They prayed. They sought God's leadership and God's provision just like you're going to pray tonight and ask God for leadership in what you should give and what you should do. And then it says they sent them away. I'll also come back to that in just a minute.
And then verse four says, "so they being sent forth by the Holy Ghost departed unto Seleucia". They were sent away by the church. They were sent forth by the Holy Ghost. That term `sent away' means that they sent them `on their way'. They actually `brought them along', or , `brought them on their way'. I wish we had time to go into all the different times in the New Testament where it talks about `sending them' or `bringing them on their way.' It means they provided their needs. It means they paid for their passage; they bought their tickets. They gave them what they needed for their journey. They took care of their finances. How did they do it? They fasted, and they prayed. They did without and they sought God's leadership, and they sought God's will.
They took of their own needs. They took, as it were, food out of their own mouths so that Barnabas and Saul could reach their destination; and when they got there they could what it says in verse 5; they preached the Word of God. Now folks, I'm sorry. I don't have anything else to embellish it with, that's it! That's what missions is all about. Missions is not this big glorified program, it's not this big wonderful, emotional moving thing: it's just preachers preaching the Word of God. When you put your hands on them it means that you approve of what they are doing. It means you're not going to mess with them. It means that they're God's men. Get together all that they need and give it to them and let them go!
We burden these guys down. Can you imagine Paul filling out a psychological profile? "Now Paul, we're going to commission you as a missionary but you must understand we need this for our files." Do you know what Paul would have done? He would have said, "Stick your head in the mud. I ain't filling out your stinking psychological profile." Amen! Now, you can like that or you can just figure out whatever you want to do with it, but that is not what happened in Acts chapter 13. I knew a man who was on a particular mission board for several years. He said he was in a meeting and they had all these files on these missionaries. He asked the board Director, "Do any of these guys not have any emotional or psychological problems?" He said, "No, they all do." My friend said, "are we going to approve them." "Yea , we're going to approve them." He then said, "Even with their psychological and emotional problems?" "Yes!" he replied. Again my friend said, "Well why give them a stinking test? If we are going to approve them anyway , just let them go!"
What's gonna keep a guy from going crazy after he gets to the mission field anyway? Surely not the lack of worry about what folks are thinking back home. And certainly not his statement at the end of the month when he sees that seventeen of his churches have missed sending in their support. I mean that won't make a guy go crazy. In the first place if a guy wants to go to the mission field that means he's about half loony anyhow, just let him go! I mean nobody in his right mind would want to leave this country. Then asking all these pastors sitting around this board meeting table he said, "have any of you ever taken this test? "Well no, not us. We're not seeking approval." I've got some news for them - I'm not either! I'm telling you, that we've got to much extra baggage.
We're carrying too much extra and unnecessary stuff. All this was, was a church that was sensitive to the leadership, and to the voice, and the impression of the Holy Spirit of God. Discerning that God had chosen two of their good, great men to do something unusual and to carry the Gospel beyond where they were, and they said, "OK, this is what God wants. If this is what God wants us to do then lets just do it. If it takes sacrifice - then we'll sacrifice. If we have to pray through the night, we'll pray through the night. Whatever it takes to do, we'll just do it! And the rest is history.
I don't think I have ever been so burdened about something, as I am about this situation and this matter of shaking off the shackles. I'm not talking about irresponsibility. I am accountable. There are procedures of accountability, but it is the local church that must call to account. And when we get away from that however slight the deviation may be, and however small the departure may be; it's too big, it's too much.
We're just trying to do down there, what you're trying to do here. That's it. The only difference is that we're just on the other side of a border; the only difference between what we're doing and what Brother Dave is doing and what Brother Hudson is trying to do in England , is that he's on that side of the ocean and we are on this side of the ocean.
For a hundred years of Baptist work in Mexico, (the first Baptist missionary went into Mexico 1864.) from 1864 to 1982, I could not show you - (I'm not saying that it did not exist) I do not know of one single, independent , fundamental, Baptist church that was averaging consistently over 500 in Sunday school. Not one! I could not show you one Baptist church of any kind that was baptizing people every week. Since we began doing this in 1982, God has raised up scores - I'm talking about scores of churches that are saturating their areas with the Gospel.
We had a man attend one of our conferences. Last year he preached in our conference. He was pastoring a little church in central Mexico, running about a hundred or a hundred twenty-five in Sunday school. He came to one of our preachers conferences. Brother Neal, it reminds me of the story that Brother Hyles tells about Curtis Hudson. He came to one of our preachers conferences and he thought, "I know what these guys are going to do, they're going to preach in the morning, ( The program was preaching and teaching in the morning and soul winning in the afternoon. Then we'd come back and preach that night) and they're going to go back to the hotel in the afternoon - and they are going to send us out, and then come back and preach that night." Boy, did we ever disappoint him. We took him out and went soul winning. And every night, every night, whoever went soulwinning with him had people down the aisle and had them baptized. (The Pastor of the church where we having the conference didn't care anything about the kind of conference we were having, he was just loaning us the building.) As we rode back on the plane we said, "this is a flop." "This won't amount to anything." "We've wasted our time." A challenge was issued that week in the conference, "If there is a pastor here that will go home and determine that he will baptize - start a fisherman's club, and have somebody baptized every Sunday for the next six months, I'll pay your way to Pastors School in Hammond in March."
In February we got a letter from a man we never heard of. He said, "I went home and started a fisherman's club. Every Sunday for six months we've baptized somebody." That was eight years ago, now the church is averaging over 1300 in Sunday school. In a city of 800,000, they have knocked every door in the city. Wait a minute - 32 times! They've had big days of over 2,000 in Sunday school. They have nine students in our institute. Ten men that have graduated from our institute have come from that church, and are pastoring in other places in Mexico.
I was in that city last month in a conference. We had over two thousand in the conference that week. The Pastor said, "Brother Ashcraft I want you to know, this is all born, and this all started because you took a step, you departed from tradition, and you took a chance. And I want to thank you for taking a chance"
God is using our church in a way I can't describe, and I don't know why he's doing it. I do know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it's not because of the guy who's talking to you right now. But God has given me a vision, and a desire, and a determination: That by the year 2,000 every major city in Mexico is going to have an independent, fundamental, Baptist, soul winning church. And if we do it, there's only one way we're going to do it, and that's by this Book. God honors His Word, and God honors the principles of this Book.
Tommy Ashcraft Ministries
Mount Hebron Baptist Church and Mount Hebron Baptist Institute SUPPORT ADDRESS: 4121 North 10th Street, #237, McAllen Texas 78504 FIELD ADDRESS: Apartado 2592, Monterrey, N.L., Mexico, TEL 011-52-826-60-120
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