Is the Evangelization of the World the Supreme Task of the Church?
Dr Oswald Smith
By Dr Oswald Smith
TURN WITH me, if you will, to Ezekiel 3, verses 17 to 19. I am going to change some of the words in this passage in order to bring it up to date. Note carefully the changes. I want to make it applicable to the mission field. Now let us read, beginning at verse 17:
"Christian worker, I have made thee a watchman: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give warning from me. When I say unto the heathen, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the heathen from his heathenish way, to save his life; the same heathen shall die in his iniquity; BUT his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the heathen, and he turn not from his heathenism, nor from his heathenish way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul."
"His blood will I require at thine hand." When I read those words I tremble. "His blood will I require at thine hand."
Down through the years my life has been tremendously motivated by great missionary mottos. May I give you one now that perhaps has meant more to me than any other. It is this, "The supreme task of the Church is the evangelization of the world." I believe that with all my heart. The most important work of the church of Jesus Christ is world evangelization.
The supreme task of the church is ... the WORLD
"The supreme task of the church is the evangelization of the world." When God loved, He loved a world. When He gave His Son, He gave His Son for a world. When Jesus Christ died, He died for a world. God's vision is a world vision. That is the vision He wants us to have.
Why is it that so many of us are local in our outlook? Why do we think only of ourselves? Is God more interested in these black people living here than He is in those yellow people living there? Is He more concerned about those brown people than He is about those who are white? Is it because we are so near-sighted that we do not have a world, vision?
Why then should we conceive of ourselves as the people? Why should we be local in our outlook ? Why should we think of ourselves as more important than any of the other peoples of the world? Why should God be more interested in us than in other nations? Oh that He would give us a world vision, that we might work for the evangelization of the entire world, the world for which Christ died, and that we might see the world as He sees it.
The SUPREME task of the church is ...
Now let us look at another word in our motto, the word "supreme." "The supreme task of the Church is the evangelization of the world." If world evangelization comes first, then we should concentrate on giving to missions and let others who do not have the vision, contribute to other things. There will always be plenty for the home work, for there are always those who put the home work first. The many worthwhile objects here at home will be cared for, since only the minority will be interested in the supreme task of the Church.
If we put missions first, then we will give more to missions than to anything else. Otherwise something else takes first place. There are business men here and each one has his own business enterprise. Now there is one department in your business that you look upon as more important than any other department. Where then do you put most of your surplus money? Why into that most important department, of course. Why do you do that? Because you want to develop the most important department of your business enterprise. So it is with missions. If world evangelism is the most important work of the church, then we should put most of our money into this most important department. Otherwise we do not put missions first and we do not believe that world evangelization is the supreme task' of the church. I find very few Ministers who really believe that the evangelization of the world is their most important work.
This leads me to say that every church should spend more on missions than it spends on itself. That is only logical. If we believe that world evangelization comes first, then we should invest more money in the regions beyond than we use for ourselves here at home.
The Peoples Church of Toronto ...
"But," you ask, "what about your church? What about The Peoples Church in Toronto of which you are Pastor? Does your church send more to the foreign field than it spends on itself ?" I am glad to be able to say that there never has been a year since I have been Pastor of The Peoples Church that we have used anything like as much on ourselves at home as we have sent to the foreign fields of earth.
Last January I asked our auditors, through our treasurer, two questions. First, "How much did we spend on ourselves last year?" After they had examined the books I got the answer. "Dr. Smith," they said, "last year, you used $43,000 on your work at home." Then I asked my second question, "How much did we send to the foreign field? How much was raised for missions?" Again I got the answer. "Last year, you gave $225,000 to missions." "Fine," I said, "but are you sure you are not mistaken? Did we not use $225,000 on ourselves at home and give only $43,000 to missions?" "No," they said, "we are not mistaken. You gave $225,000 to missions and you used only $43,000 on yourselves at home." "Splendid," I replied, "that is the way it always has been and that is the way it should be." And if the time ever comes when the officials of The Peoples Church decide to spend more here at home and less on missions, they will get my resignation without a moment's hesitation. I would not want to be the pastor of a church that would use more, selfishly, here at home than it sent to the regions beyond. I am glad we gave $225,000 to missions and that we spent only $43,000 on ourselves.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God ...
When I became Pastor of The Peoples Church in Toronto, many years ago now, I was told everything except one thing, and on the Sunday morning that I was to preach my first sermon, the treasurer approached me with a very grim expression on his countenance. "Dr. Smith," he said, "we have told you everything there is to tell you about this church except one thing." Then he paused. I waited for him to continue with what he was going to say. In a moment he went on. "This church," he said, "is deeply in debt. We owe a great deal of money and we have nothing in the treasury." And then he looked at me as though he expected me to put my hand in my pocket, take out the money and give it to him, telling him to run away and pay the bills.
Instead, I turned and went into the pulpit and as I went, I prayed. "Lord," I said, "I have been wanting to find out for a long time whether or not a certain passage in Thy Word is true." True, I meant, from a practical standpoint. I referred to that verse, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God (the extension of God's kingdom world-wide) and all these things shall be added unto you." That morning I preached a missionary sermon.
Sunday evening came. It was my first Sunday. I should have brought an evangelistic message, but again I felt led to speak on missions, and I did so. Then I asked the people to come back every night that week. They came, and on Monday night I gave them missions again. On Tuesday they got another dose of missions. Wednesday night they had to listen to still another missionary address. On Thursday night it was missions again. By Friday they were coming in increasing numbers, perhaps more out of curiosity than for any other reason, and once again they got a dose of missions.
Then, I suppose they folded their arms, saying one to another, "This new pastor of ours, we cannot understand him. He doesn't seem to have any sermons except on missions. But the second Sunday is coming. Perhaps then he will really start to preach."
We discovered that when we put first things first, God worked.
The second Sunday came. I can remember it as though it were yesterday. At the morning service I made an announcement. "We are going to hold three services today," I said, "and take up three missionary offerings: one this morning, another this afternoon and the last one tonight." Some of them seemed to look at me in amazement, but I had started my work, assisted by one missionary, with an attempt at a missionary convention, and I was determined to see it through. That morning I spoke on missions and took up a missionary offering. I did the same in the afternoon and again at night. Here I was, hardly saying a word about home needs and yet taking all the money I could get from them for missions. But now for the sequel.
They became so interested, so aroused, so awakened, that they came in ever-increasing numbers. Souls were saved and in a very short time every seat was taken. Before long they had caught the vision and they began to give, to give as they had never given before, and in a few weeks, without having to say hardly anything about the local obligations, every debt was paid, every bill met, and from that day to this we have not known the meaning of the word "debt" in connection with our work. We discovered that when we put first things first, God worked.
If I were to be called to another church, and if I should find that church in debt, I would do again exactly what I did before. I would hold a great missionary convention, raise as much money as I could for missions, and then expect God to come to my rescue and take care of the local obligations, and God would not fail me. All we have to do is to put first things first and watch God work.
The supreme task of the CHURCH is ...
The third word I want to emphasize is the word "Church." "The supreme task of the church is the evangelization of the world."
Every Christian a missionary
When I think of the church I think of the whole church, and not merely of a department or an organization in the church. For instance, we do not have any Women's Missionary Society in The Peoples Church. We never have had such an organization and we never will. Not because I am against such a society. I thank God for every Women's Missionary Society. Sometimes the only missionary light that shines is the light that shines from a Women's Missionary Society. But I can show you in two minutes why it would be impossible for us to have such an organization. Suppose I were to gather together a little group of women, a dozen or more, and suppose I were to say to those women, "Now you are to become a Women's Missionary Society, and your work will be the work of evangelizing the world. That is all you have to do, just evangelize the world." What then would I be saying to everyone else and to all the other organizations in the church ? I would be saying, "This is not the most important work of the church. It is only a side issue, just one of the many departments of church work. Let these women look after it. They can take care of the evangelization of the world; and the rest of us—those of us who are men—we will do something really worthy of our manhood."
No, my friends! Every man in my church is a member of the Women's Missionary Society. And I see to it, as far as possible, that every one of the eighty or more members of my choir accepts his or her responsibility; that each one of my elders, managers and deacons, a hundred and twenty, shoulders the burden; that every usher, every Sunday School teacher and officer and every boy and girl, contributes to missions.
We do not have the parents give for the children
We do not have the parents give for the children. We teach the children to give for themselves. From the time they are five or six years of age, they are taught to give systematically. Then when they grow up we have no trouble with them. They have learned how to give. This work is far too important to hand over to any one organization. It belongs to the whole church, and when everyone catches the vision and everyone does something, then our goal is reached and our budget met. Our motto is, "Every Christian a missionary." It is the work of the whole church.
This is an abridged excerpt from Dr Oswald Smith's book, The Passion For Souls.