When Should We Begin World Missions?

By Rev. John Kao

Ever since the first Christian missionary, Rev. Robert Morrison, arrived in China in 1807, many missionaries from Europe and North America began to swarm into the country, spreading the gospel and planting churches all over China. In over a hundred years, Chinese Christians gladly embraced the blessings of the gospel, but failed to grasp the truth that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. They did not spread the gospel to other countries as foreign missionaries once did for China. Maybe western missionaries thought that, being young and immature, the Chinese churches were unable to take on such an immense responsibility. They waited patiently for the churches to grow, but the long wait lasted for over a hundred years. Such procrastination and irresponsibility are a betrayal of the truth and an ungrateful response to the grace and blessings of the Lord!

The Theological Base for Missions

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples that church planting and world missions should be carried out simultaneously. In His Great Commission, ‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching’ are important tasks of church planting whereas ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ is the main focus of world missions (Mt 28:19-20). Before the establishment of the early church, Jesus Christ already gave this assignment to His disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In fact, the whole book of Acts bears witness to the significant dual roles of ‘church planting’ and ‘world missions.’

With this in mind, how long should we wait before we begin the ministry of world missions in a new church? The answer is obvious: we must begin soon after the church is established. Even though we have limited abilities and resources, we can still strive to do our best and take part in missions.

The Beginning of My Ministry in Missions

The first ACEM church was established on January 12, 1975. In that summer, brothers and sisters already began gospel work outside this church. It was by God’s grace that when I first started church planting, I firmly believed in Christ’s wonderful promise that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Where did this vision of world missions come from?

In the one and half centuries after Morrison brought Christianity to China, there was no formal curriculum on world missions in Chinese churches, seminaries or Bible colleges. When I received my theological education in the early 1950s, no such training was offered to seminary students. There were only sporadic reports of Chinese evangelists spreading the gospel outside the country.

When I received my Master’s degree from the Biblical Seminary in New York in 1963, I received invitation to pastor a church in Central Canada. However, our Heavenly Father sent Rev. Dr. B. Allen Finley, the president of CNEC (now known as Partners International) who made a special trip from California to New York to ask me to serve in their missions organization and teach Bible and theological courses in Hong Kong. From then onwards, God has given me numerous opportunities to mobilize people to serve in missions.

The Growth of My Ministry in Missions

After having served in the Hong Kong Bible College for six years, I looked for an opportunity to immigrate to Canada with my family. It was my hope to pastor a church, as well as to further my theological studies. In January 1969, we arrived in Vancouver where I met Rev. Dr. Allen Finley who came from California and extended his sincere invitation for me to join the team of CNEC, a North American missions organization. Rev. Finley told me that many pastors in S.E. Asia needed the financial support of affluent countries in North America. He hoped that I could be the spokesperson for my colleagues in the Third World, preaching in North American churches on their behalf and raising funds in support of their ministries. Burdened by the needs of the pastors in the missions fields and encouraged by my father and Rev. Andrew Song, I could not decline his kind invitation. After earnest praying with my wife, I took a step of faith and began my new ministry in raising funds for missions.

Instead of sending missionaries from North America to other countries, the missions strategy of CNEC was to support local pastors financially in spreading the gospel and planting churches for the native people. Local pastors with a good understanding of indigenous cultures and languages could effectively communicate the gospel message. Unlike foreign missionaries, they did not have to deal with issues such as the language barrier, education for their children or adaptation to the local environment. Foreign missionaries eventually must leave the country whereas local pastors can stay on. Furthermore, the required financial support would be much less than that of foreign missionaries. Most importantly, local pastors could establish churches that can take root in the local communities and become self sufficient in future.

After two months’ training in the California headquarter of Partners International and passing my driving test, I began my journey in April 1969, traveling all over the U.S.A. and Canada. I shared my faith testimony, advocated the strategy of supporting local pastors in missions fields and enlisted regular prayer and financial support from Christians and churches.

I thank the Lord for His grace because He gave me ample opportunities to visit many thriving churches. Besides preaching and sharing my testimony at missions conferences, I had the opportunity to learn valuable lessons from the teachings and personal witness of missionaries. Due to my inquisitive nature, I also learned a lot about church growth from many pastors, deacons and believers. In later years, these lessons became very valuable to my pastoral ministry.

I enjoyed a blessed and effective ministry at CNEC. After six years of being a missions representative, I reflected on my calling to be a pastor. Rather than fund raising, my calling had been to spread the gospel and plant churches. My dream was to see the lost being saved and young believers being trained. It was then that I connected with six families and on January 12, 1975, we took the initiative to plant a church in Toronto.

The Fulfillment of My Conviction in Missions

With this conviction, our newly established church, in its first year, invited two S.E. Asian missionaries, Rev. Paul Chang and Rev. Daniel Tan, to give an account of their ministries. On that Sunday, we also collected special offerings for the youth gospel ministry in Malaysia. From then on, ACEM churches have offered support to world missions in many ways:

1. Participation in Gospel Meetings

In the winter of 1974, I accepted the invitation of Rev. Thomas Wang, General Secretary of CCCOWE, to be the Chairperson of the Eastern Chapter of Canada. In 1976, we organized a team of thirty-four church leaders (five from ACEM churches) to attend the First Congress of CCCOWE in Hong Kong. From then onwards, we have diligently sent representatives to other CCCOWE annual congresses in North America, Brazil, Netherlands, Lausanne, Philippines, Korea, Thailand, offering our support and resources. With the full support of ACEM, I served as the General Secretary of CCCOWE from 2001 to 2006, traveling all over the world and promoting our conviction of "Chinese churches in one accord, proclaiming the gospel until Christ's return."

2. Support for Missions Organizations

Each year, ACEM churches provide funding in support of missions organizations, including Partners International, Gospel Operation International for Chinese Christians, Chinese Christian Mission, CCCOWE, Great Commission Centre International, Campus Crusade For Christ etc. We also offer long-term financial support to missionaries and missions-centered undertakings.

3. Sending out Missionaries

ACEM churches also send out many short-term missions teams led by ACEM pastors, giving much needed encouragement to local pastors. It is our hope that disciple training will be made available to more theological students who will serve the local people and meet the needs of local evangelistic activities. At the same time, participants of short-term missions often experience spiritual revival and rekindle the passion of spreading the gospel in their home churches. We also send long-term missionaries to Africa, the Caribbeans, S.E. Asia, China, Eastern Europe and Northern Canada. It is our sincere hope that more brothers and sisters will participate in long-term missions in future.

4. Support for Theological Education

In order to build up more Kingdom workers, ACEM churches allocate considerable funds to support seminaries, subsidize tuition fees and offer summer and one-year internships to seminary students. Whether it is planting churches, pastoring local churches or serving in missions fields, we try our best to offer training opportunities for Kingdom builders.

5. Assistance to the Needy

From the very beginning, ACEM churches have been well aware of the needs in our communities. Our social concern activities include donations of clothing and food, financial assistance for the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ and donations to the victims of earthquake, cyclone or flood. In the early days of our church in 1976, we collected benevolence and missions offerings on the Holy Communion Sunday of each month. In recent years, brothers and sisters generously make special donations to help the victims of natural disasters.

6. Organizing Missions Conferences

As early as in 1978, we started to organize annual Missions Conferences. Each year, we set an annual theme and budget, plan programs and special activities as well as invite speakers. Before the conference, we promote the event with posters, publish prayer guides and encourage believers to pledge to pray for our missionaries as well as to make faith promise offerings in support of their ministries. We also encourage believers to dedicate their lives to serve God in short-term or long-term missions. Brothers and sisters are often spiritually revived and come to grow in passion to spread the gospel. Missions conferences thus become opportunities for church growth and blessings to many.

7. Enhancement of Missions Organizations

In order to promote the ministry of missions, the organizational structure of churches has to be strengthened. This includes nominating persons-in-charge for missions in fellowship committees, executive church boards, pastoral teams and the ACEM council (with missions representatives from member churches). The ACEM Missions Department also has budget sub-committees, evaluation committees for subsidies to theological students and short term missions, as well as planning committee for missions conference, etc. In conclusion, missions have always been on the top priority of our churches. In response to the saving grace of our Lord, we always try our best, pooling our wisdom and resources together to love and care for the lost in this world.

The Breakthrough of Missions

Holding on to the Jesus’ promise that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’, ACEM churches have organized annual Missions Conferences for the past 30 years. Indeed many families of ACEM churches have been greatly blessed, but our gracious Lord wants us to look far and beyond, as well as to expand our horizons. There are still millions of lost sheep to be saved and plenty of unreached territories. I earnestly hope that many more brothers and sisters will dedicate their lives to cross-cultural and local missions in addition to church planting. May the gospel be spread far and wide, and upon the return of our Saviour, He will reward His faithful servants!

(Rev. Dr. John Kao is the Founding Pastor and Consulting Pastor of ACEM churches.)

* translated by Esther Tsui

Last modified on Monday, 01 April 2019 08:53


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