Foreign missions today are primarily based on humanitarian good works, and generally do not follow the pattern in Acts—where miraculous works played a significant role in the great harvests of souls for the gospel. During these Last Days that scriptural pattern of missions involving the miraculous is being restored.
Today there are missionary organizations and mission efforts at work in most if not every nation under heaven. The great majority of them, especially those in gospel-resistant Third World nations, specialize in humanitarian works in order to demonstrate the love of our Father in heaven for them. Most are “tentmakers” of some kind. That is what they feel called by God to do.
Inasmuch as we all believe in the authority of Scripture, we might want also to follow the pattern of missions as seen in Acts with the early disciples. There we see the gospel being confirmed time and time again by miraculous works—primarily miraculous healings—resulting in impressive harvests of Gentiles for the kingdom of God.
Why is it that most missions today do not follow this pattern? Among the reasons for this, two of them stand out. The political/cultural situation in many nations in the Third World do not permit the gospel to be shared openly. For expatriate gospel workers to enter and remain in the host country, they need visas allowing them to work in some secular area. One way (among other approaches) is to serve in some Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which provides humanitarian aid to the poor and disadvantaged. In this way, the sharing of the gospel is indirect—done on the side—and based on personal relationships and good works.
The second reason involves the inability of contemporary gospel workers to heal the sick and cast out demons as the early disciples did in Acts. Workers today are simply not taught how to heal the sick as Jesus taught his disciples in the gospels. The teaching has for the most part been lost.
Cessationism has left its mark on missions in the contemporary Church. Whether consciously or unconsciously—whether deliberately or not—we are led to believe that the miraculous works performed through the disciples in Acts no longer occur today on the mission field. We do not expect them to occur, and therefore we don’t dare attempt to do what the early disciples did when they spread the gospel throughout the known world. When the occasional miracle does take place, we are surprised and amazed.
Ergo, the present state of contemporary missions in the world which is focused primarily on humanitarian good works. But this need not be the case.
Expat gospel workers can in fact be taught how to heal the sick and do the miraculous works performed by the disciples in Acts. Armed with this, they can in the same way train local/indigenous harvest workers who will be far more effective in preaching the gospel. They do not need a visa. They do not need to learn the local language and culture. They do not need to accustom themselves to local living conditions and standards.
This is what The Elijah Challenge is now doing in India, and expanding to do in other countries as well.
Yes, God may in fact have called you to the ministry of humanitarian good works on the foreign mission field. Yes, you might need official cover as a “tentmaker.” But should we continue to ignore the command which Jesus gave his disciples in Luke 10:9—and which his early disciples continued to obey in Acts?
Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
Can you not train your local disciples to obey this command, and then send them out as Jesus sent out the Twelve and then the 72 disciples?
Luke 9:6 So they [the Twelve] set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”