"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.V No.V Pg.10,15b
December 1942

Missions And Missionaries

O. C. Lambert

The word mission does not occur in our English Bible. Since translators choose their own words in expressing the meaning they find in the original Hebrew and Greek, they might have correctly employed this word also. Not long since I heard a young preacher severely calling to task those who use the word loaf instead of bread, as being unscriptural. But some translators use it and it happens to be the first word Thayer uses to express the meaning of the original.

But the word mission and the word missionary have been so long employed to make distinctions unknown in the New Testament, that I feel that it would be less misleading if we would use other words. For instance: A mission is not a church and a missionary is not a gospel preacher or evangelist. To have a church that controls a group somewhere which they call a mission is dangerously near the Catholic idea of diocese, which was made in the early history of Christianity. If our brethren who are in distant places are not establishing churches as Paul and others did in New Testament times, then I am not interested in their work. Why is a man a gospel preacher or an evangelist who preaches the gospel in nearby places but the instant he goes to some distant place, especially, if he should cross the ocean, does he become a missionary? The denominational churches have had missions and missionaries in foreign lands for more than a hundred years, but have no self-supporting churches, and according to surveys made by their own people have failed to accomplish much. Our people in adopting their terminology have also appropriated their ideas, and we have had missions and missionaries in foreign lands for more than fifty years and have few if any self-supporting churches. Each Christian is obligated to take the gospel to others.

I may admire the purposes of these representatives of denominationalism who make such heroic sacrifices, yet I do not approve what they do, and I do not want any of my brethren to conclude that I am antagonistic toward those who are trying to spread the gospel. I am trying to help, not to hinder. I wish we had hundreds out everywhere where we have so few.

I am merely urging caution, that we want to do everything on the New Testament pattern.

I have been interested for many years in taking the gospel where it has never been known, and I can say without boasting that there are few preachers among us who have held any more meetings without any church or individual supporting than I have. It has been my great pleasure to be associated with one of the finest churches anywhere, for more than fourteen years, which believes in supporting the preacher who goes into new places. Since I am severing my connection with this wonderful church I feel that it will be pardonable to say something by way of commendation of this fine church. I deserve little credit for being so fortunate as to be connected with such a fine group of Christians. The work that has been accomplished has been by the whole church and not simply by "the preacher." This church I speak of is the Sixth Street church in Port Arthur, Texas. I think all the brethren who have held meetings there in recent years can also testify to the things I have to say.

I think the success of this church is due to the common sense plan which has been followed, which is, I am sure the New Testament plan. While they have made small contributions regularly, through the years, to work in many places, they have concentrated their forces to nearby places, and have persistently stood by the work they started until it could carry on of itself. This very essential matter of becoming self-reliant was part of the plan. There has been more than a congregation a year established through this period, and most of these places are now able to carry on by themselves and have houses of their own. I am praying for this church, that the success they have achieved may but spur them on to greater accomplishments, and that hundreds of other churches may get a vision of greater things, and get more pleasure out of taking the light to those in darkness.

Frequently I hear people speak of "hard places." I have come to the conclusion that there is not nearly as much difference in the possibilities of different localities as we sometimes imagine. It is true that people with different languages, customs, and backgrounds, generally require a different method of going about the work, and a different preparation for the worker. Many diseases which formerly baffled the medical profession are yielding to a better prepared doctor. While it may appear childish to mature people to say that one of the first things we must learn if we expect to get into the hearts of people is to be able to make friends. We avoid people we do not like. We do not buy groceries or insurance from people we dislike, and we do not go out of our way to listen to a fellow preach if we do not like him personally. Some seem to go on the idea that the best way to convert a man is to first insult him! Preaching the gospel is the greatest errand of mercy. If we are not genuinely in love with people we will fail. We ought to "become all things to all men." Paul, the most successful preacher who ever lived, preached "publicly and from house to house" (Acts 20: 20). I think it a waste of time for the preacher to simply visit the brethren to enjoy a little social chat with them, but for a person to go into new homes and make friends for the church is a great adventure. It is one of the greatest pleasures in the world. There is no clergy or laity in the church of Christ. This should not be the work of one member, which is sometimes called "the preacher," but should be the daily work of all the members. In the Jerusalem church, made up of thousands of members, they all "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8: 4).

It is with many heartaches that I sever my relations with this wonderful group of the Lord's own. In fourteen years many ties will grow. Many of them are my children in the gospel. I have been at the bedside of the dying, I have seen their children grow up, have performed the marriage ceremonies for them, I have been the recipient of their innumerable kindnesses. If I have been able to help them, it has been mutual. I can say of them as Paul to the Corinthians, "Ye are in our hearts to die and live with you" (2 Cor. 7:3). I feel that they love me more than a poor man deserves to be loved. It will always be at least one of my homes.