A recent stir has been raised in my church body about a bylaw that has been in existence for years and that lately has become an issue of controversy. The by-law basically says that the “only sending agency” in the church, for “funds and personnel” to foreign fields is the Board for International Missions. It raised enough of a stir that some former missionaries and some professors and others asked folks to write to me and basically tell me what they think. It is important to note a couple of things.
1. The Board for International Missions writes policies that the Office of International Missions will implement to help move forward the mission of the Church. The Board did not write the by-law and the Board cannot change the by-law. The Board is tasked with writing policy that acknowledges that the by-law exists and means something.
2. I am not speaking for the Board. The Board will wrestle with this question. Since however some have seen fit to ask others to write and ask me to comment, I will share some of the things that I have learned and ask for further comment from you.
Here is an article that I found in a 1937 synod publication written by John Behnken – words in [ ] are mine.
Paul was directly called by the Lord, Rom. 1, 1. 5; Acts 9, 15. Moreover, he was mediately commissioned by the church at Antioch to preach the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, Acts 13, 2. 3; 15, 40. – Also in the choice of his fields of labor he was guided by God’s directing hand, Acts 16, 6; 18, 10; 20, 22. 23. A striking in-stance the vision, v. 9. God no longer calls His missionaries immediately. Yet all Christians are commissioned by the Lord to be His ambassadors to the world, Matt. 28, 19; 1 Pet. 2, 9. Since it is the Lord’s will that the Gospel be preached to “every creature,” Mark 16, 15, preachers must be sent, Rom. 10, 14. 15. In order that this may be done in an orderly and effective manner, our congregations have joined hands in a synodical organization. Maintenance of colleges and seminaries for preparing Gospel preachers and teachers. Synod elects mission boards for the various fields (home and foreign), experienced, God-fearing, devoted men, [and women] to direct and supervise its wide missionary program. By authority of Synod (we are the Synod!) they formally and prayerfully call our missionaries and send them out. God calls and sends them through us. – And they do not go forth at random. God even now directs the missionaries’ feet, not by visions, etc., but through the judicious counsel of our missionary agencies, through circumstances and opportunities that reveal His will. The Macedonian call “Come over and help us,” rising from benighted and despairing souls, still comes to our Synod and its various boards from beyond the seas, from far and near.
If this seems to onerous or difficult please let me know why. We’ll talk.