IMB photo/Bill Bangham
Kanöot and Sarah Midkiff are headed to the Ukraine to serve with the International Mission Board. While there are eight people headed overseas from North Carolina, only the Midkiffs’ identity can be revealed due to security reasons.
Recently, I asked a young missionary to tell me about his home church. Although I’m somewhat familiar with the pastor and the church, I don’t know a lot about either. I would say it is a very good church, with beautiful facilities and a very good pastor.
The young man was not critical, but with a sense of grief said, “It is a very good church, and our pastor is a good man, but I don’t think he really gets it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The Great Commission,” he said. “I don’t see any evidence that the church or the pastor gets it.”
His evidence: no missionaries have been sent, no teams are doing overseas mission work, Cooperative Program support is weak, and they give a mediocre Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
Perhaps a mediocre mission vision is endemic within the routine proceedings of church life. But tragically, it has become epidemic.
I know the temptation to be ensnared by routine church life and the desire to avoid the front lines of mission engagement. Pastor, I fully understand the demands on your life. But this is our calling. We cannot minimize the assignment that Christ maximized.
It is a highlight of my year when I am able to attend an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary appointment service. Each of the services I have attended over the years has been a powerful milepost in my life. Last week Pam and I attended the service in Hattiesburg, Miss., where 77 newly appointed missionaries were introduced. Eight of them are from North Carolina.
For security reasons, six of those eight cannot be publicly identified. The other two are Kanöot and Sarah Midkiff, who will be serving in the Ukraine. Both are N.C. natives. Kanöot has served as the minister of missions at Mount Vernon church in Boone for nine years. Sarah was the administrative assistant to Jonathan Yarboro, Baptist campus minister at Appalachian State University. This gifted couple and their children, Fisher and Faith, will be missed in North Carolina, but God has a greater assignment for them in Eastern Europe.
The quality and commitment of all 77 appointees is beyond description. In 30-second testimonies, we heard the unique way God has drawn each one to their new destination.
At every appointment service the IMB president presents a challenge. Newly inaugurated president Tom Elliff described the new “Embrace” strategy. “Embrace is an invitation for you to allow IMB to partner with you and your church, seeking to reach these 3,800 unengaged people groups of the world. … IMB is doing a lot of other things among a lot of other people groups, and we’re not going to stop that.”
“Last year, through the work of your IMB missionaries, over 350,000 came to Christ and followed Him in baptism, planting almost 30,000 churches, and we don’t intend to stop,” he added. “We cannot hire enough missionaries to reach the ends of the earth. Don’t you agree that it’s going to take all of us?”
Pastors, do we get it?
Are we willing to embrace the ends of the earth? The work will not be done by women’s mission groups or men’s mission groups. Para-church organizations cannot do it. It will be done when pastors take the lead, and the whole church gets a vision for the unreached.
I am concerned that too many pastors have relegated the work of international missions to mission groups in the church and ministries beyond the church. Sometimes those groups have not been the pastor’s friend or supporter, causing him to distance himself from the whole missionary enterprise. But have we noticed this strategy is not working?
No one, no group and no ministry can effectively replace the role of the pastor in leading the church toward an unrelenting vision for the lost of the world.
I plead with every pastor to become more passionate about reaching people for Christ in our neighborhoods and to the ends of the earth.
Listen to the passion of Elliff: “We cannot make Jesus come again. God the Father knows exactly when that moment will occur. But we do know this: coincidentally with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ the Bible clearly and specifically states that there will be a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the vision of IMB.”
Don’t minimize this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. While North Carolina typically gives more than any other state convention, we should give far more.
Pastor, your leadership is critical! For the sake of the gospel, please make this your priority.