By Steve Wallace
History tells us that Don Carlos Janes was one of the most zealous advocates for foreign missionary work of his day. We are told that he traveled 9,000 miles to visit various mission fields in the year 1919 alone and that he conducted a world tour in 1920. Earl West writes of him, “For thirty years mission work was his sole obsession.”(1) We commend and admire this brother’s missionary zeal. However, our feelings toward him are tempered by other facts about him. Brother Janes believed in the teachings of premillennialism. As Earl West further writes of the results of brother Janes’ work, “Clearly, then, premillennialism reached out to touch the vast mission fields over the world.”(2) This brief synopsis teaches us an ever present danger with reference to the current wave of missionary enthusiasm affecting many Christians today. With these things in mind, let us note some dangers of such compromise and some things supporting churches might do to guard against it.
The Fruit of Compromise in the Mission Field
1. The work the compromiser establishes will be adversely affected. If one is off on divorce and remarriage, soft on liberalism, a neo-Calvinist, a Charles Holt disciple, etc., it will have an effect on those whom he teaches. Because of the influence such a one wields, it is unlikely in the extreme that the church which results from his efforts will stand for anything other than what he teaches on a given subject. One needs only to consider the above mentioned and other false doctrines to figure what the consequences of such a person’s work would be. Some tell us of brethren who “believe a certain doctrine but do not teach it.” Think brethren! We need to realize that no honest person holds views that he does not teach. If someone wants to know how a brother feels about a certain situation involving divorce and remarriage, the forgiveness of sins committed in ignorance, the work of the church, etc., that brother will either tell (teach) them his convictions or cease to be an honest man.
2. The effects on brethren in supporting churches. Churches supporting such a man become unwilling accomplices to him in his work of perverting the truth. It hurts such churches when they learn the truth about what the unworthy worker believes and teaches. Some will no doubt sour on the idea of supporting preachers in foreign fields. (With the money some churches are presently sitting on “for safe keeping” we do not need anymore churches that are unwilling to support preachers in other places!) Others may be tempted to unscripturally meddle in the work of the next preacher whom they support. While such reactions are not justifiable, they can be the results of the work of such a compromiser.
Because of the things mentioned above, churches must not be haphazard in deciding whom to support. How should they decide on a man to support? Let us study some things that will help in making such decisions.
Some Ways to Guard Against Such Compromise
1. Missionary zeal is not the only measure by which a prospective worker should be judged. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees, saying of them, “ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15). The Judaizers who infiltrated the churches of Galatia were likewise zealous (Gal. 4:17). When a perpetrator of error is zealous, the effects of his work are much worse than an otherwise sound brother who has become apathetic. When a man has a zeal for the Lord’s work in another land, we should try to ascertain that it is the Lord’s work that he will be doing.
2. Some standards (which may help in selecting a) worthy man.
a. He should love the souls of men. Jesus’ example on this point is so helpful. He was willing to go through so much just because he loved the souls of men (1 Jn. 3:16). Such love can be seen by the efforts that one has put forth to reach the lost and restore the erring. It will stand him in good stead when confronted with the challenges of work in a foreign place (Jn. 4:9-10).
b. He should be one who shows himself approved of God. Paul tells us how this is done: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). If a man has put forth the effort to know the truth there will be brethren to whom he has “shown himself approved of God” who can testify to this fact.
c. He should be one who speaks his convictions in the face of adversity. Paul did this among brethren at Antioch in the face of mass hypocrisy (Gal. 2:14). This is a necessary trait of anyone who plans to do mission work. Paul shows us the truthfulness of the above point by his actions while he was all alone at Athens (Acts 17:16-17). When a man gets out on his own, far from home, in a strange environment, he will have to be able to speak his convictions to those around him.
d. He should be one who can stay in a foreign field. By “staying in a foreign field,” we do not mean that he never leaves the place again. We simply mean that he be able to stay for the time necessary to do the work there. John Mark became a point of contention between Paul and Barnabas because he “departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (Acts 15:39; cp. 13:13). Going is a whole lot easier than staying. One must count the cost of a given work, gird up the loins of his mind, and make sure he is prepared to give what time it takes. Wives of evangelists would do well to prepare themselves to make do in a foreign place. Among the U.S. military families the wives most often have problems with life in a foreign country. We must consider the time necessary to do successful mission work. Brethren who have spent years in mission fields testify that it sometimes takes years to establish a work in a given place. Out of consideration for all who would try or have tried to work in a foreign field it must be said that experience shows that it is easier for some in a strange environment than it is for others.
With the great open door to preach Christ finally open in eastern Europe and the former USSR, men need to be found who will go and spend the time necessary for churches to be planted and grounded. However, as we have tried to show herein, it is not just important that brethren go to foreign lands, but that men go who will teach “them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 9, pp. 276-277
May 7, 1992