Archive: Five Methodists speculate on

What Has Happened to our Missionary Zeal?


says Dean L. Griffith, Wilmette, Illinois

Missionary zeal is dependent upon commitment to Christ. If there is no relationship with God through Christ, there is no zeal!

We often fail to communicate this essential ingredient, so the church-goer is frequently unaware that this commitment is both necessary and desirable. Robert Raines, in his book, “New Life in the Church,” expresses it this way: “This is no side issue, no optional matter of individual whim or fancy. Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘You must be born anew –unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nothing ambiguous or foggy or tentative, is there?”

If an individual thinks Christ is optional, how can Christianity have any vitality? If Paul had thought Christ was optional, we wouldn’t have a Christian church today! And if we feel Christ is optional now, we will not have a Christian church in the future. Christianity is always one generation from extinction. If it’s true that the trend in our church today is to change or ignore this basic premise of Christianity, how can we have a sense of urgency?

Since the average Christian almost never opens his Bible, he is usually totally unaware of what God expects of him. And he is equally unaware of what God promises and desires to do for him which is, “infinitely more than we ever dare to ask or imagine …” (Ephesians 3:20)

Often people do not realize that communicating the Gospel message can be shared in love with the same results that it has had for 2,000 years. The needs of human nature today are essentially the same as the needs of man 2,000 years ago. The redeeming, revitalizing impact of the acceptance of Christ is just as real as it was in the first century of Christianity.

If a man does not have a vital relationship with God through Christ, or does not have daily prayer (which is simply two-way communication between God and man), how can he possibly respond to the last spoken words of our Lord, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations … “? Those words mean nothing to us until Christ becomes ????he Lord of life. Then they become not only His command to us, but, more importantly, He gives us the desire to communicate His love to others.

As individuals come to a point where they are willing and desirous to have God in the central position in their life, He begins to change their attitudes and ambitions. He gives them a vast love and concern for other people. And, finally, He does so much for them that it spills over to others so they, too, can experience the love, the joy, the peace, and the purpose that Christ came to give every man who would receive Him.

I wonder if our church today needs to hear these words again …  “You do not love as you did at first.” (Revelation 2:4) Has our love lost its zeal? Who has a deep and growing love relationship with another person and then hides it from the world? The layman needs to know that he has equal privilege and responsibility with the ministry to share what God has done and is doing for him.

Surely, God is not dead! But if His influence is so dead in our lives that we no longer care to communicate our faith, we need to take another look at our beliefs. God is looking for men – any man, and every man –who will respond to Christ!


thinks Gerald Lundeen Pastor, West Branch (EUB), Bradford, Pennsylvania.
Erie Conference Director, of Christian Education

From mythology, we recall the story of the Greek warrior, Achilles. His mother was told that she could make her son invulnerable by dipping him beneath the waters of the river Styx. She did so – holding him by one heel. Achilles fought battle after battle in the Trojan War without being harmed. But the end came when a poisoned arrow of the enemy was shot into the heel that had not been dipped.

I am convinced that Satan is not overly concerned about how much the Church today faithfully attends divine worship; how many beautiful buildings are built; nor how many church budgets are over-subscribed. I am sure that he isn’t too worried when we fill each night of the week with committee meetings, circle meetings, class meetings, scout meetings, and what-have-you (in fact, I wonder if he isn’t laughing with unholy glee as he sees Christians madly dashing from one “church activity” to another – finding little time in between for personal communion with God).

But it does seem that the Devil gets quite upset when we share God’s “good news” with others. If Satan can keep us from witnessing, he will have struck us in our “Achilles Heel.” As long as we confine our beliefs to ourselves, he has no problem. But as we win others to Christ, we find Satanic opposition.

First of all, we have a theological problem. We somehow need to recapture the truth that man without Christ is eternally lost. We have tried to come up with a new theology that man might possibly be able to lift himself out of his dilemma by his own efforts. The biblical truth is that man needs Jesus Christ. Without this basic theology, it is no wonder that our sense of urgency has vanished.

Another problem we have is that of inadequate and outdated promotion. The Church today is behind the times – we need to realize that we are living in a century of tremendous progress and that there is a need to keep up with the latest developments in the promotion of missions. A technological revolution is taking place: every available means of communication and promotion should be employed by the Church to promote missions!!

Our third problem is selfishness. Most churches today have a very “active” program going. This drains the life of its members so that not much time, effort and money is left to go elsewhere! We become ingrown – promoting our own program, solving our own problems, and raising our own budgets. However, time and time again it has proven true that the Church which has a concern for the lost around the world will also have an outstanding program at home.


thinks Mrs. Malvin Jackson St. Joseph, Missouri

Does the average Christian of today realize the awfulness of being LOST? If we would ponder the Bible-given facts of an eternity without the Lord Jesus Christ, would we not have more zeal to win others to Him, here and in every corner of the world?

Compassionate hearts are aroused and everyone comes to do all he can when a child becomes lost in a wooded area, or in a city where danger lurks on every side. Why do not we, as Christians, feel this much concern for the spiritually lost? At one time, not too far removed, our preachers were inspired to preach to the congregations the horrors of Hell. This being clearly set forth frequently, gave an urgency to win souls, here and abroad. Since this preaching is outmoded in most churches, an apathy has come over many Christians toward mission work. Instead, the needs of the local congregations have taken precedence. Building expansion and like needs demand time, energy and money so mission work is left lagging.

Could it be we are being lulled to sleep with the “comfortable gospel” which only presents God’s side of love and patience, and avoids the word which plainly states that we have a jealous God who has commanded us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” and that “he that winnest souls is wise?”

Modern day living for the Christian consists of constant rush, – work meetings, schedules, ad infinitum, until our minds can be diverted from the prime concerns. Therefore in addition to the realization that we need be working for the evangelization of the whole world “while it is still day,” our attention needs continually to be brought to this phase of our Christian responsibility.

It has been our privilege, for several years, to entertain in our home, missionaries from various places throughout the world. This has caused mission work to be very real to our family. As we recall the first-hand experiences the missionaries have shared with us, we realize the needs of their work and are compelled by the Holy Spirit to pray for them and their work.

Our zeal has lessened toward missionary work in The Methodist Church, but if it is to be carried on in future generations, we had best get our churches involved in an enthusiastic missionary education. Enthusiasm is contagious – especially when it 1s motivated by the Holy Spirit.


says Robert W. Hughes, Pastor, United Methodist Church Bridgeton, New Jersey

Someone said the difference between a thing being possible or impossible is the two little letters ‘im.’ Let me suggest the zeal for missions which Methodists once had has diminished largely because we have become more concerned with ‘im’ than we are for the lost of this world. This is true in at least three areas.

First, once we were a people with a real love for the Word of God. Now we exert a certain pride in being a people who have no particular doctrinal emphasis. We have become a people who have, by our Biblical ignorance, failed to heed the command of our Lord to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (Matthew 28:19) Unlike Wesley, the world has not become our parish to the extent that we see the universal need for salvation as he did. The world population now exceeds 3 ½ billion, and the projected estimates indicate that somewhere after 2000 A.D., 7 billion people will live on this planet. We need to return to our first love. (Revelation 2:4)

Second, the ignorance of God’s Word has created cold-hearted churchmen. Indifference to the mission field and its challenge are the result. When we have no vital Christian experience which is grounded in the Word of God, we become self-centered and indifferent to the needs of others. This indifference can be illustrated in these statistics: If each American Methodist family would give 5% of a $4000 annual income to missions, we would be able to contribute $620,000,000 annually to this cause. This is approximately 21 times more than we are doing now!

Third, the zeal for missions has 46 GOOD NEWS been dulled because of institutionalism. We have lost contact with the mission field. Because it has been de-personalized, we do not give, nor do we pray. It is hard to pray or to give with much zeal simply to some generalized place. The institution, as important as it is, does not take the place of people.

To recapture our lost zeal, we as Methodists need to return to the Biblical basis for missions and seek to reclaim our lost first love for Him. A commitment of one’s self to Christ will cause us to give if we cannot go, to pray much if we can give but little, but above all, it will open our eyes to see the fields that are white to harvest! (Matthew 9:37)


says Leonard Fugate, Pastor, United Methodist Church Hornick, Iowa

Our missionary zeal is flagging today! The main underlying cause is the lack of the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals. This produces a lack of evidence of His working in our congregations in the organized church.

One secondary cause is the organizational structure, which tends to impersonalize missionary giving. In our Methodist structure, only in Advance Specials does one get the feeling that we are giving in a personal way. The balance of our benevolence giving, which is much larger than Advance Specials, as the average layman thinks of it goes into a huge pot and is given out arbitrarily. Thereby we lose the advantage of the feeling of personal giving.

During my seminary years I had the occasion to become acquainted with a number of congregations of various denominations. The one thing that stands out in relation to their missionary programs was the fact that those with the greatest missionary zeal, also showed evidence of the greatest activity of the Holy Spirit in their congregations. (Mainline denominations, not Pentecostals.) One had a benevolence budget which was greater than their operating budget. There I found an attitude of Christian love and fellowship in action such as I have seldom, if ever, found in our own denomination.

If we possess the Christian love which Christ desires of us, we cannot divorce missionary zeal from His Great Commandment. He said there were two main principles of living: the first, to love God with our entire personality; the second, to love our fellow man as much and in the same way as we love ourselves.

Missionary zeal has a direct relationship to, and is a good indication of, the spiritual condition of a congregation.

I recommend two books to every Methodist who is interested in spiritual renewal in our church: “Your God is too Small” by J. B. Phillips; and “New Life in the Church” by Robert A. Raines. Phillips says that without a power from outside, Christ’s teaching remains a beautiful ideal, tantalizing but unattainable. But if we want to co-operate, the Spirit is immediately available. Raines says: “The loss of mission appears in the local church, which is usually content to grow in physical stature and in favor with its immediate environment … Thus we lose our individual concern in corporate irresponsibility. That the average church member and the typical local church have lost their sense of mission is ultimately a judgement upon us who are leaders of the church.”


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