(Ben Anderson is the Director of Things to Come Mission.)
Long before becoming the Director of Things to Come Mission, I was an MK. That’s short for missionary kid. How I came to be an MK started back in 1955 when several Milwaukee Bible Institute students met together to form a new mission. Their aim was to pioneer new fields with the wonderful gospel of grace. They called the organization Things to Come Mission (TCM) and adopted the motto, “Dedicated to worldwide evangelism through the methods of the Apostle Paul.” My parents, Vernon & Darlene Anderson, were present at that meeting and immediately answered the call to foreign missionary service. Their ship arrived in Manila Bay on January 1, 1958 after a rough three-week crossing of the Pacific. From Day One they started evangelizing and planting churches with a handful of contacts gleaned from letters which had been sent to TCM founding director Herbert Palmer. Twelve Grace churches were planted that first year. In 1961, I was born into this Grace missionary family.
Philippine Grace Gospel Churches
The Philippine Grace churches have seen steady growth over the decades. Many missionaries and pastors have labored to reach the predominately Roman Catholic people with the gospel of grace. At the 47th Annual Worker’s Conference in April 2005, in which Pastor Ricky Kurth, Joe Watkins and I participated, 310 pastors and church leaders attended. Five Bible institutes are distributed throughout the country. The literature department prints tracts, correspondence courses, books and a bimonthly magazine entitled The Grace Digest. There are national organizations for all genders, ages and classes of people.
TCM is following Paul in his goal of establishing indigenous churches. That means national churches which are self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating. Truly, the Philippine churches have become indigenous. TCM still assists partially with the five Bible schools and a few key leaders; however, the bulk of the ministries are planned, led and supported by Filipinos.
A Missionary God
Our God is a missionary God. Throughout human history as recorded in the Bible, God has made the effort to reach out to man. It is because of obedience to God that TCM missionaries have given their lives on the foreign mission field. Consider this key passage of Scripture which clarifies God’s long-standing attitude toward the nations.
7Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. 8Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. (Romans 15:7-12)
We see in verse 7 of this missiological passage that our great purpose, and indeed that of Jesus Christ, is to glorify God. This happens when we humbly accept each other in the church. Then Paul says that Jesus came as a minister of the circumcision (He came to work among the Jews) so as to confirm the many Old Testament promises of a Deliverer for Israel. Verse 8, however, is only the preamble to Paul’s major argument which is stated in verse 9a, “That the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Israel’s purpose, stated way back in Genesis 12:1-3, was to be blessing to the Gentiles. Paul identifies his own ministry as being a continuation of this great purpose of God. In verses 9-12 he quotes from four Old Testament authors to prove this claim: 2 Samuel, Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah. Each of these passages proves that throughout the Old Testament, God had a desire to see the Gentiles enter into a relationship with Him. Israel never implemented this purpose. In fact, the Lord Jesus became angry at the Jews in the temple because they had taken the place of prayer for the Gentiles and turned it into a market (Mark 11:15-17 cf. Isaiah 56:3-7). Later, Jews stoned Stephen to death while he looked into heaven and saw the Lord Jesus (Acts 7:55-56).
Where Israel failed, Paul intended to succeed. Look at the following passage from the same chapter:
Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. (Romans 15:20-21)
What was the purpose of Paul’s arduous and hazardous life? Paul knew that with the wonderful gospel of grace, Gentiles could be won en masse while still remaining Gentiles in culture and practice. The Apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:15 to prove that he was simply completing this great purpose of God which Israel had ignored.
Are we in the West in danger of the same judgment which caused the Apostle Paul to turn from the Jews in Pisidian Antioch?
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. (Acts 13:46-47)
Earlier, I showed that God had given Israel a responsibility to reach the Gentiles. In Antioch, the Apostle Paul turned away from the Jews because they once again refused to become that light. Fellow Gentiles, before we spend too much time patting each other on the back because God’s attention has turned to us, ask yourself an important question. Who do you suppose now has the responsibility of being a light to the Gentiles? “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). With authority comes responsibility. The Lord Jesus Christ has made all of us His ambassadors in this world. If people die without hearing the gospel, it means His ambassadors were not doing their job. If we fail to reach the nations, with our complete understanding of Paul’s distinct revelation, would not our judgment be more harsh than that of these confused Jews?
STEPPING UP THE PACE
The Apostle Paul speaks of the Christian life as a fight and a race. As Christ’s return inexorably draws closer, we who live in this dispensation of grace must redouble our efforts to take salvation to the ends of the earth. Here are five areas which need our attention.
Stop Being Complacent
Let’s face it. Life is pretty good for a suburban American Christian. With a minimum of effort you don’t have to think about what is going on in the world outside your own community. Beware that darkness is expanding across the globe and its icy tentacles are already reaching into our country, and even into our own families. We are in the midst of the spiritual warfare Paul spoke of in Ephesians 6 and 2 Timothy 3. We can fight back with the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Decide to Follow Paul Fully
Paul was a missionary. He continuously sacrificed his rights in order to push the light of the gospel farther into the darkness (2 Cor. 4:4-6). In all instances where Paul tells us to follow him, he is speaking of adopting a sacrificial lifestyle that both glorifies God and reaches out to the lost. Mission involvement is mandatory for a Grace believer. To follow Paul is to be involved with God’s mission for His Church.
Partner With Third World Missionaries
Open your hearts to a willingness to support missionaries from outside the United States. They may speak English with improper grammar and trod unknowingly over American customs, and we may never have a chance to meet them personally due to international boundaries, yet their hearts are on fire for the Lord. As I write this, a TCM pastor from the Philippines has traveled to Thailand on his own to establish a Grace church. Another Filipino couple who speak English well and are experienced urban church planters are begging me to speed up their application process so they can get to the mission field.
Support A Grace Mission Agency
A mission agency such as Things to Come Mission is committed to the distinctive message of Paul. Although officially we are non-denominational, our missionaries and support must come primarily from Grace churches and members.
Invest in Missions
Time, energy, lives and money spent on missions is an investment. It brings eternal rewards. Would the exciting work in the Philippines have been established without years of financial and physical sacrifice on the part of Grace believers? We who know and love the gospel of grace preached by Paul (Acts 20:24), need to go back to our roots of evangelism, church planting and missions. The missionaries who were raised up after the Auca incident in 1956 are now retiring. Who is willing to go to replace them?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who wrote against the Nazi system. His firm stand caused the Nazis to hang him in 1945 at the age of 39. Ten years before his execution, Bonhoeffer penned these words, which should cause all of us to rethink our level of participation in God’s purpose.
Cheap grace is grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ. Costly grace is the gospel. It costs people their lives. It cost the life of God’s Son, and nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. (Discipleship, 1935)