These IFS urge us to ask how such deliverance can be found.
What is to be the cure of this diseased state?
A sickly man cannot do a healthy man’s work. To help carry Christ’s cross to the world needs the vigour of full spiritual health. How is this to be found?
In all return to God for true service and new blessing the first step is always—
The leaders of the Church’s mission work, who ought to know the tremendous needs of the world, who understand the meaning and urgency of our Lord’s command, who feel the utterly inadequate provision the Church is making for His work—on them rests the solemn duty of lifting up their voice and making God’s people know their sin. It is possible that we are all so occupied with our special fields of labour, and the thought of how much is being done, that the extent and guilt of what is not being done is comparatively lost sight of.
The latest statistics tell us that, at the close of the century, the total of communicants from among the heathen as the fruit of mission work is 1,300,000, and of the “native Christian community, or the number of souls in nominal adherence to Christianity and within direct touch of gospel agencies,” is 4,400,000 (Dr. Dennis in Rep. E. M. C. vol. ii. p. 423).
With a thousand million of heathen and Mohammedans, we are thus in real contact with less than five millions as against 995 millions still unreached. Until Christians are led to listen, and think, and pray for opened eyes to look upon these fields, “white unto the harvest,” intrusted to them, they never will recognise the greatness of the work, their own unfitness, or the urgent need of waiting for a Divine power to fit them for the task.
As we take in this, we shall feel and confess how little the Church has done, and the guilt and shame resting on the body of Christ will become the Lord’s burden on us.
We rejoice and give thanks for the 15,460 foreign missionaries who are now in the field labouring among the four million of the native Christian community. But what efforts are being made to reach the one thousand million? They are dying at the rate of over thirty million a year—within thirty years they will have passed away into the darkness. What prospect is there that they will be speedily reached?
Every society complains of lack of funds. We are told that of Church members one-third neither gives nor cares for the kingdom; that another third gives and does and cares but little, and that not from the right motive; and that even of the remaining third—it is really less than a third—only a small proportion are doing their very utmost, and giving and praying with their whole heart.
The disobedience of the Church in the great majority of her members, her neglect of her Lord’s work, her refusal to listen to the appeals to come to His help—
is not this a sin and a guilt greater than we think?
If the Church is really to waken up out of her sleep, is not the one thing needed, that those to whom God has given the charge of His mission work in the world, in their pleadings lay before the people the utter disproportion between what is being done and what ought to be and can be done, and press home the guilt and the shame of it until an increasing number bow before God in confession and humiliation, and in a cry for pardon and mercy as earnest as when they sought their own salvation?
With the appeal to men there must be the appeal to God.
The work is His: He cares for it.
The power is His: He gives it.
The Church is His: He waits to use it.
The world is His: He loves it.
He can make His people willing in the day of His power. He will hear the cries of His servants who give Him no rest. He delights to prove His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. Things cannot go on as they are, if the world is really to be evangelised in this generation. More than five years are already past since the watchword was publicly sounded: in this generation every creature must have the gospel offered to him.
<>Unless there come over the Church a great change, and she give herself to the work in a way she has not yet done, the work cannot be accomplished. But it can, if God’s people will fall upon their face before Him to confess their sin and the sin of their brethren. Let them ask God to reveal the cause of all the failure, and take the message to His Church. </><>Let them preach the great truth, that as the winning of the world to God is the supreme, the one, end of the Church’s existence, so the love of souls, the surrender of the whole life to Christ, for His use in the winning of souls, is the duty, is the only healthy life, for every believer. </>
There are tens of thousands of God’s children who are not unwilling, yea, rather, who are secretly longing, to serve their Lord, but know not how, or have not the courage to do so.
The time will then come when we shall no longer have to say,
IF the Church were what she ought to be,
but shall find our joy and strength in guiding a prepared people in that arduous but blessed path of bearing Christ’s cross to every man on God’s earth, and wrestling with the hosts of hell to make way for the kingdom of Christ the conqueror.
Murray, Andrew. The Key to the Missionary Problem. London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1902.