Missions Organizations & The Great Commission
The commissioning from the Lord to His disciples into ministry or the harvest, has been greatly misunderstood by the church in America. This misunderstanding has caused many believers to be spiritually damaged, and has spread much confusion throughout the church. This article will lay a proper foundation for the real commissioning of the Lord, and examine how this powerful reality has been misused and mistaught by the church or mission’s organizations. Before we send our youth out with a mission, we had better make sure the Lord is sending them out with that mission. If we send our young believers into harvest (battlefield) who are not ready or not commissioned by the Lord, their blood will be on our hands.
Scripture vs Personal Word
The words of God recorded in the Bible are obviously true, but it doesn’t mean those words are true for a certain person at a certain point in time.
“AND JESUS summoned to Him His twelve disciples and gave them power and authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to cure all kinds of disease and all kinds of weakness and infirmity.
Jesus sent out these twelve, charging them, Go nowhere among the Gentiles and do not go into any town of the Samaritans; But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand! Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely (without pay) you have received, freely (without charge) give.” (Matthew 10:1, 5-8 AMPC).
This partial commissioning into ministry was given by Jesus to His close disciples. It was not given to everyone who followed him at the time, but only to those who He deemed ready to carry this burden. These were men who had been with him for a long period of time, and who had reached a certain level of spiritual maturity. One of the greatest mistakes that the modern church has made, has been taking this scripture and applying it to every believer in the present time. This may be a truth in the scripture, but it is not true for every believer right now. Jesus is not speaking this scripture to every Christian right now. If we do not understand this, we are at great risk of a spiritual shipwreck.
This scripture only applies to believers who have followed the Lord as His disciples for a period of time that the Lord deems necessary for that certain individual to be approved by God. If at a certain point in the relationship, the Lord decides the disciple is ready, He will speak to the disciple in a clear way. In other words, He will make the above scripture alive in the believer’s heart, or bring this revelation in some other way. The Lord will not commission, anoint, give power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons, or send believers into the harvest until they are ready. Many believers will never be ready because they do not pick up their crosses and follow Him as disciples. Others are disciples, but have not come to a place of maturity in which the Lord judges them ready to be sent.
A believer should not read the above scripture and think it applies to them, simply because it is a truth in the Bible. It can only be applied to a believer, when the Holy Spirit chooses to make it apply. The Lord desires us to be in relationship with Him, not words on a page. We must make sure we are hearing from the person of God, and not our own desire to do something for God. The desires of our heart can easily cloud the true will of God. In order to be in alignment with the will of God, we must be in the proper timing of God. To be out of His timing is to be out of His will.
“Jesus said to them, My food (nourishment) is to do the will (pleasure) of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish and completely finish His work. Do you not say, It is still four months until harvest time comes? Look! I tell you, raise your eyes and observe the fields and see how they are already white for harvesting.” (John 4:34-35 AMPC)
Mission organizations in the United States use this scripture to justify believers going into the harvest immediately. However this scripture cannot be used by itself to justify missions. It must be coupled with the below scripture in order to be accurate.
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38 KJV)
Only the Lord can send laborers into His harvest. It is not our harvest and we do not have the authority to send people. The scripture clearly states that the Lord will send laborers. Only the Lord has the proper discernment to know when a believer is ready to be sent out into the harvest. He will then let the leaders know, and they will send believers out, as they did Paul (Acts 13:1-4). It should be noted that Paul was sent out at the specific direction of the Holy Spirit, and not simply because he completed a discipleship training school.
Paul was close to 40 years old at the time he was sent out into the harvest. It took many years for the Lord to make Paul ready. Inner character needed to be formed in Paul before he could handle the stress and grim warfare of the battlefield. Had he sent himself or been sent by an American missions organization; he would have likely ended up badly wounded (spiritually). He could have left the ministry all together and forfeited his calling.
Many young believers are currently being damaged because they are being sent out by man, and not by God. These youth are being spiritually ravaged in the battlefields of foreign countries, because they do not have a commissioning from the Lord. A short term mission is still a mission. And it only takes the Devil a short amount of time to damage someone who is not protected by the Lord’s commissioning. With the commissioning of the Lord, comes the grace of the Lord for the mission. The mission will always end in failure without the grace of God. We can do nothing apart from Him.
There is a belief in the church that goes something like this, “If a believer is doing a work for God on mission field, God will protect them.” This is simply a presumption. The Lord does not operate by presumption, but by faith. Satan tested Jesus in the same way. He tried to get Jesus to operate independently of God’s will by being presumptuous:
“Then he took Him to Jerusalem and set Him on a gable of the temple, and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, cast Yourself down from here; For it is written, He will give His angels charge over you to guard and watch over you closely and carefully; And on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. [Ps. 91:11, 12.] And Jesus replied to him, [The Scripture] says, You shall not tempt (try, test exceedingly) the Lord your God. [Deut. 6:16.]” (Luke 4:9-12 AMPC).
Satan used a general scripture from the Bible to try and get Jesus to do something that the Father wasn’t presently telling Him to do. This is the exact thing the modern missions movement is doing with young believers. Clearly, just because it’s in scripture doesn’t make it God’s immediate will. The Devil is still getting believers to act independently of God’s will and timing, by rushing into the mission field without being fully prepared by the Spirit of God. Satan knows if he can do this, many believers will be damaged and taken out of ministry. Others will be so badly wounded that they will walk away from the Lord all together. Jesus operated in the wisdom of God, and did not take Satan’s bait. Instead He replied, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” In other words, you should not presume upon God, and put yourself in a position expecting Him to protect you from all harm. The lesson is clear. We must wait until the Lord gives an order, and then His angels will be present to bear us up, lest we strike a foot against a stone. We would be wise to follow after our Master, by not tempting the Lord our God.
What is the difference between missions organizations and the church? According to the Lord, nothing. Any believer is apart of the church, and where believers are meeting; that is the church. The American church may view missions organizations as different from the church, but the Lord does not share this view.
The main focus of any leader within the church should be leading people into an intimate relationship with Christ, and seeing Christ formed in a person. The leader should be following Paul’s example and preaching Christ, and Him crucified (the cross life). Instead, I have been in a meeting where the co-founder of a large missions organization for youth preached about their ministry. The majority of the message centered on coming and serving the ministry, and being apart of what the ministry was doing. The message highlighted following a missions organization, not Christ.
There is a real problem when believers of a certain missions organizations are known or called by the name of that organization. That is a massive failure on the part of the church in this country. We should be known and referred to as followers or disciples of Jesus Christ. The Lord does not want our focus, devotion, or loyalty to any ministry or organization to eclipse Him. Something is dreadfully wrong when we are being called by any other name than Christ (Christians).
The Truth of the Harvest
Jesus is much more concerned about quality than quantity. His goal is not to save as many people as possible, although He does want all to be saved. Jesus’ goal is to see people conformed to His image (Romans 8:29), transformed to His image (2 Corinthians 3:18), and come to the mature man; the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). Simply put, the Father desires the incorruptible seed of Christ that was deposited in every believer at the new birth, to come to maturity (1 Peter 1:23). The crop (church) can only be harvested (caught up or raptured), when it is fully mature. It would be incredibly foolish to harvest a crop that is not fully mature or ready (according to any farmer). Jesus defines the harvest as the wheat (believers) and the tares (unbelievers) coming to full maturity; not a certain number of people being saved. The harvest defined by Jesus, is believers being gathered into the barn (Heaven), and unbelievers being gathered to be burned (Hell). The harvest is the gathering of both the righteous and the unrighteousness (Matthew 13:24-42). Much of the church currently teaches that the harvest is revival or the gathering of souls to eternal life. This is only partially true. For the whole truth, please see what Jesus teaches in Matthew chapter 13.
There have been many prophecies claiming that billions or the majority of the world will be saved in the end time harvest. I know that the Lord wishes this were true, for the scripture states that it is His will for all to be saved. Jesus’ prophecy, however, is different from many prophecies that are currently circulating in the modern church.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:13-15 KJV).
According to Jesus, few people will enter eternal life and many will choose eternal destruction. Jesus is prophesying the truth. We don’t have to like it, but we do need to agree with Him. Obviously we need to position ourselves to be used by God, that He may use us to bring as many souls into His Kingdom as possible. But if we haven’t heard from the Lord, we must not just rush out into the harvest field. Only the Lord can truly send us, not a missions organization. He loves us to much to let us be taken out by the enemy on the battlefield. That is why He will not send us until we are ready. His main desire is for us to be in an intimate relationship with Him (to know Him and to be in His presence). He desires to remove the self-life within us, so that He can live through us. When Christ is allowed to come to a certain level of maturity in us, He will then send us to carry out His Kingdom business.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus warns against false prophets right after He makes the statement about many people going to Hell, and few people going to Heaven. The false prophets or false prophetic will be saying the exact opposite of Jesus. In other words, they will be saying that in the coming harvest; many are going to Heaven, and only a few will be going to Hell. Who are we going to believe, Jesus or those saying the opposite of Him?
Qualifications for Leadership
Missions organizations are placing people in leadership positions who are not qualified to be leaders. Some of these people are very young, and only recently graduated from a basic discipleship training program. A leader should not be appointed by man unless they have been approved and appointed by God. Man appointed leaders who are not ready to lead, are a recipe for disaster. The Holy Spirit taught Paul a great deal about leadership on his missionary journeys recorded in the book of Acts. That wisdom is revealed to us in the books of 1 Timothy and Titus.
One might argue that the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are only for senior leaders or elders of a ministry or mission organization. While this may be true, all leaders of God’s people should have solid character. It would do us good to take note that the Holy Spirit does not consider a person qualified to be a spiritual leader based on their gifts of the Spirit. It’s the person’s character that qualifies for leadership according to 1 Timothy and Titus. Deacons are held to a high level of character as well. Deacons are believers in the church who are called to a service ministry such as serving food, or distribution of goods to the poor. If then, therefore, the Holy Spirit has set a certain standard for deacons, how much more for any leader in the church who is over God’s people. At minimum, anyone leading God’s people should meet the same requirements as a deacon who is in charge of the service ministry in the church (since leading God’s people requires a greater degree of responsibility). Let’s take a look at the qualifications for deacons to determine the minimum qualifying level for leadership at any level in the church (this includes under-leaders or lower level leaders in a mission organization).
“Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 3:8-13 NKJV).
The scripture states that anyone called to the ministry of service in the church must first be tested, before they can be approved for ministry. Over a period of time, after they have been found blameless, they can service in a leadership capacity. Any person who is given authority over young believers, must be approved in his way. If they are not, we are setting up our youth to be damaged by leaders who are not ready for leadership.
Leaders should be the husband of one wife, and rule their own children and homes well. How can a leader be approved for leadership if they are not married, and therefore have not been proven in this area? How can a leader be approved for leadership when they have not been tested in leading their own children and governing their own household well? The scripture is not making suggestions for us. The Holy Spirit is telling us what works, and how to appoint good leaders that are approved by Him. If we continue to ignore the scriptures and appoint young leaders who have not been proven, or because they are spiritually gifted; we are going to be held responsible for the damage done to young believers. The Lord has given us His guidance and He expects us to follow it. If we do not, we are in disobedience to Him, and are fighting against His will. Only arrogance people ignore the Lord’s will through His word, in order to do what they want.
Leaders that are not approved of God may have control issues. They will not be confident in themselves or in their relationship with God. They will attempt to control young believers because of this. Anyone who has not been broken by the Lord, by means of the cross-life; will have too much self-life in them to lead God’s people properly. This will show up in various forms of pride. The bottom line is that if we continue to appoint leaders over our young people, who are not ready for leadership; the premature appointment will have a high potential of destroying their call to leadership. The leader will not have the time to develop into the leader the Lord desires them to be. If you put a cake in the oven before all the ingredients are added to it, it will not turn out as it was intended to. If may even turn out pretty awful.
Please wait for the timing of the Lord for you. Don’t allow yourself to be sent, unless it is the Lord who is sending you. You cannot bring the Kingdom of God or preach the Gospel without the power and authority being given to you by God. You cannot get His power and authority because you have read the scriptures and confessed them. You will only be given that grace when you are ready for it. The Lord does not want to see your spiritual walk with Him destroyed, and will wait until you reach a certain point in His discipleship training program before He commissions you into the harvest field.
The United States military does not send children off to war. One must be at least 18 years old before enrolling in the military. Why do leaders in the church think it’s okay to send spiritually immature children off to battle Satan and his army? We are damaging the younger generation by sending them into warfare before the Lord is finished preparing them.
It took the Lord 80 years to make Moses ready for his commissioning. Elijah did appear in public ministry until he was older. Jesus didn’t enter the harvest fields until He was 30 years old. There was a certain time that His ministry was to begin, that was set by the Father. He only began after He was anointed by the Holy Spirit in power. We would be wise to follow after the example of our Teacher. We are not better than our teacher, so we must wait until the commissioning of God as He did. If Jesus would have taken the scripture from Isaiah 61 when He was 20 years old, and used it to justify starting His public ministry; He would have missed the timing of God and been operating independently of the Lord. This is exactly what many believers and missions organizations are doing right now; using scripture to justify sending all believers right now into the harvest. If we continue to miss God’s will and timing, believers will continue to be greatly hurt. Sending and commissioning must be done, but in the Spirit of the Lord.
-Ty Unruh (2019)