The question is sometimes asked of us: “Why are you Australian Bible teachers going overseas on missions (short or long)? Many of the countries which you visit have more churches and more Christians than Australia; what can you teach them?”
It is true some of the overseas destinations to which we minister have more Christians and churches than Australia. For example Africa, especially the southern regions, is peppered with churches large and small, and the bulk of the population in many African nations professes to be Christian. Parts of Asia, such as Chin State in Myanmar, are thoroughly Christian. But the reason we go overseas, which is the same reason we are passionate about ministry in Australia, is found in one of the Apostle Paul’s prayer requests.
His prayer requests make interesting reading. In Romans 15:31, he seeks prayer for his personal safety. In Ephesians 6:19, he seeks prayer for “fearlessness” in preaching the gospel. In II Thessalonians 3:1-2, he again asks for prayer for his personal safety, and for the rapid spread and uptake of the gospel.
However, in Colossians 4:4, he asks the believers in Colossae and Asia Minor to “pray that I may proclaim (the gospel) clearly, as I should”. His desire is the same desire that compels us into our pulpits each Sunday, which takes us many miles to little pastor-less country churches in Australia, and which takes us overseas. It is that we want to proclaim the gospel clearly and help other pastors to know what the “clear” gospel sounds like and how we distil the “clear” gospel out of the Scriptures.
It is not boastful to say that we Bible teachers in Westminster Presbyterian Church have, by God’s grace, been ourselves well-taught in the Scriptures and given a clear understanding of the gospel; we have to be well taught to pass the rigorous examinations required by our denomination for entry into pastoral ministry.
While Australia has good churches and denominations, not every church is familiar with “clear” gospel preaching. And in some of the overseas places we visit, while there is much church activity there is little understanding of how to systematically explain the Bible and so preach the gospel “clearly”.
In John 16:8, Jesus describes the elements of the gospel as “sin and righteousness and judgement”. In Acts 24:25, the gospel Paul preaches before Felix, the Roman governor of Judea, is described as “righteousness, self-control and judgement to come”.
These elements, of course, are only the bare bones of the gospel, but they lie at the heart of Christ’s ministry and the heart of the Bible itself and God’s Great Salvation Plan.
The Bible is a big book, though it hangs together as a story; the unfolding of God’s Great Salvation Plan. A verse preached out of context can cause carnage in the church and bring the church into disrepute. But the true gospel, which is God’s truth preached in context and preached clearly, is the sweet aroma of life to those who are being saved, and encouragement to the saved. That is the gospel through which the Holy Spirit works to bring people home to God, and that is the gospel we work to spread wherever a door opens for us.