Present-day missions to gospel-resistant people groups such as Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and idol-worshippers in general contrast sharply with what we see recorded in the gospels and in Acts. In Acts after they were scattered out of Jerusalem the early disciples like missionaries today also proclaimed the kingdom of God to pagans and idol-worshippers, and they witnessed the rapid expansion of the gospel throughout the known world. They harvest they reaped in their mission field was so great that some of them believed Jesus Christ was at the door; that is, they had nearly completed the Great Commission.
Missions today to non-Christian people groups is anything but. The typical picture we have of missions in the 1040 Window today depicts a missionary struggling to use verbal discourse to convince a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist that Jesus is the Messiah. A relationship with the unbeliever is first established, often based on friendship or humanitarian good works. Later in the relationship comes the actual proclamation of the gospel, and the unbeliever is asked to accept the truth of what is said.
This present-day approach was not followed by the disciples in Acts when they reached out so fruitfully to idol-worshiping Gentiles. Rather time and time again they simply did what Jesus commanded them to do in Luke 10:19.
“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “
Repeatedly in Acts powerful miraculous healings confirmed the proclamation of the gospel by the disciples, thus reaping impressive harvests of gentile souls for the kingdom of God. These took place when the early disciples healed the sick miraculously as they used the authority and power over demons and diseases given to them in the context of proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost according to Luke 9 & 10. (This authority and power are to be clearly distinguished from the very different “gift of healing.”)
Why are missionaries today not using this supernatural authority and power on the mission field to produce irrefutable evidence to gospel-resistant peoples that Jesus is the only way to the Father?
It is because for various reasons this authority and power are not taught in the Church today. Traditions in the Church regarding the miraculous are extremely strong and can be resistant to what Scripture actually teaches.
My wife and I have been in full-time ministry together since 1978. But because of my wife’s traditional church background, it was not until 27 years later in 2005 that she began to understand, to minister, and to teach others to minister with the Lord’s authority and power as evidence of the gospel to the lost. In contrast, I did not have a church background at all. After I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior in 1976 and a year later was filled with the Holy Spirit, I was given an intense desire to see what I read in the book of Acts take place my own personal life and ministry. So I examined the gospels closely to uncover the principles underlying the miraculous healings of Jesus Christ. When a year later in 1978 as a missionary in Indonesia I began to apply those principles, idol-worshipers were miraculously healed and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. Within three months we had planted two churches in two primitive villages in a very dark, witchcraft-infested region where the gospel had never been preached. But for my wife it was not until 2005 when her traditions lost their grip on her that she began to minister with the Lord’s authority and power according to Scripture. This took place as she listened to me teach from the Scriptures hundreds of times during the 27 years before she came to understand clearly the Lord’s authority and power.
In 2003 we trained a group of Indonesian servants of God how to penetrate the world’s largest gospel-resistant people group—the forty million-plus Sundanese Muslims of West Java. The Sundanese people are infamous for being resistant to traditional missionary approaches—which typically involve friendship relationships and humanitarian good works.
During our Training we taught them how to use the Lord’s authority and power to heal the sick miraculously as convincing evidence to the Sundanese Muslims that Jesus Christ is far more than just a prophet—He is in fact the Messiah. Elijah, one of the disciples we trained, entered Sundanese villages and before sharing the gospel first healed the sick miraculously using the Lord’s authority and power. The very powerful miracles they witnessed—including the raising of the dead—convinced the Sundanese that Jesus is the Messiah. Today (2017) there are over 4,000 born-again followers of Jesus Christ among the Sundanese Muslims.
On one occasion when we were visiting him in Indonesia on a mission trip, we asked Elijah about the role of authority in his ministry.
“AUTHORITY IS THE TIP OF THE SPEAR,” he replied. It is understanding and effectively applying the Lord’s supernatural authority over diseases and demons in the context of proclaiming the gospel that allowed him to penetrate effectively the world’s largest unreached people group—something traditional approaches had failed to accomplish. It was the essential factor of the unmatched miracles which opened the eyes and hearts of the Sundanese to the gospel. No other ministry reaching out to them has reaped the extraordinary harvest Elijah had.
The understanding of authority is the missing piece of the puzzle in missions to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and idol-worshippers. Without it our weapon is blunt and therefore ineffective in penetrating the great spiritual darkness ruling over gospel-resistant peoples.
During these Last Days the Lord has graciously restored understanding of the authority over demons and diseases he has given to missionaries. The tip is being restored to our weapon for the sake of the gospel—that we might fulfill the Great Commission before the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “