“And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense” (1 Kings 13:10 NJKV).
I am frequently asked, “What led you to do mission work in the countries to which you go?” On one level the answer is relatively easy – I chose to work with a particular congregation which had established work in those countries and they gave me the opportunity to become a part of that work. The rest just developed naturally.
But that may not be the whole story. I did not have to commit myself as fully as I did to mission work, nor to continue in this particular work for more than twenty years. Some of the reasons must be traced to my own choices and preferences, just as Paul identifies his own preferences for where to work in his epistles (Romans 15:20-21).
Another consideration is the involvement of God’s providence. A particular combination of training, experience, opportunity, and willingness (plus other ingredients) must exist for any work to succeed. Is this just coincidence, or does God help bring those factors together so that his will might be accomplished?
The prophet Amos was commanded by a false prophet of Israel, “Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the royal residence” (Amos 7:12-13). Amos’ response was firm, “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. . . . And the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’ ” (Amos 7:14-15).
The followers of King Jeroboam II of Israel did not want Amos or his message in their nation. But the prophet was not there to please them. He had been sent by God, just as the young prophet of 1 Kings 13 had been centuries before him. (The King Jeroboam whom he confronted was Jeroboam the First who reigned almost 200 years before the time of Amos). Though both were unwelcome and probably uncomfortable in a hostile environment, both were convinced that their mission was essential.
The prophets of biblical times had the advantage of direct revelation and visions. They were often told directly what God’s will and purpose was, and exactly what God wanted them to do, and where. We no longer receive such specific and personal directions. Yet when one adds opportunity, ability, and need, he or she may become convinced that a particular work is providentially directed.
When one looks at a globe or a world map, there are numerous options for places to target as mission points. Regardless of continent, region, or country, there are multiple thousands, millions, or billions of unbelievers in need of the gospel message. All are made in the image of God; all are loved by God, who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Given those indisputable facts, the proper question regarding mission targets is not “why go here?” It is rather, “Why not go here?” There are no wrong choices. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All sinners need the Savior. “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:14-15)? Wherever we have opportunity let us go. And if we cannot go let us help to send those who can.