Training for Missionary Work
“TRAINING with a view to Missionary Work” was the subject under consideration at a Meeting of Brethren held during the course of the Missionary Conference at Cardiff recently. After Mr. P. L. Gould had opened the meeting and some time was spent in prayer, Mr. H. P. Barker introduced the subject. The visiting missionaries, Messrs. D. W. Beattie, R. G. Broughton and A. Stenhouse, and Dr. Lehmann and local elder brethren and evangelists helped in the discussion that followed.
Mr. Barker spoke of the two forms of training: that which he termed “unconscious training” and that which he termed “conscious training.” Reading Jeremiah 1. 1-10, he shewed that from birth the life of Jeremiah had been overruled by the Lord. This operation of the hand of God throughout his life was indicated by the repeated use of the personal pronoun by the Lord in the words, “I formed thee,” “I sanctified thee,” “I ordained thee.” And, that this was the outworking of an eternal purpose was shown from the words, “Before I formed thee . . . I knew thee”; Jeremiah’s surprise shewed how unconsciously of this great purpose he had spent his early years in which he was undergoing this vital form of training for the work the Lord had in mind for him.
The working of the same principle was demonstrated from the life of Paul whose years at Caesarea, with the visit to Arabia and the approximate ten years at Tarsus could have held no indication of the tremendous extent to which the Lord intended to use the chosen and as yet unconscious instrument. Even his training in pre-conversion days was overruled to serve the ultimate end God had in view.
Jeremiah’s lack of any sense of competency or adequateness for the particular service was illustrated from his response, “I am a child.” It was shewn that, similarly with all other of the servants of God, he felt a deep sense of his insufficiency for the task thus thrust upon him.
The touch upon his mouth (v. 9) and the description of the service he was to undertake (to root out, to pull down, to destroy, to throw down and to build, and to plant, v. 10), together with the assurance of the Lord’s command and His presence (vv. 7 and 8), were used to illustrate the conscious training through which a servant is fitted for the work. The features of his ministry were translated into the terms of Christian service by reference to 2 Cor. 10. 3-5, where Christian ministry is described as a pulling down of reasonings in the minds of men which exalts themselves against the knowledge of God so that every thought might be brought into captivity to Christ.
Mr. Barker summed up the question of training in the Bible Colleges as a method, of fitting a person for missionary work in the words “Moody was raised up by the Lord and mightily used. He started a Bible College which has turned out many excellent men, but it has never produced another Moody. Spurgeon was raised up, fitted of God and greatly used. He also started a Bible College, which has turned out many very good men but it has never produced another Spurgeon:” The need for the development of culture in preparation for service in these days of the spread of education was raised in the discussion that followed. Without disparaging any learning that might naturally come a man’s way as did Saul’s at the feet of Gamalial, it was felt that the refinement which grace produces, apart from human learning most fits for the work the Lord has in view.
Missionary brethren spoke with conviction of the part this “unconscious training” had in their lives. Each of them referred to the Lord’s definite dealing with them. How vital it is for this to precede any “conscious training” and to predominate in the experience of anyone who contemplated missionary service seemed to be emphasised.
The questions of the commendation, advice and special training of those assured of the call of God to service abroad were discussed. Missionaries spoke of the way the Lord had brought them into touch with those already serving the Lord in the fields of service about which they were secretly exercised. Much was made of the value and necessity of training in the experiences of assembly life in fellowship with older brethren and servants of the Lord at home. The responsibility of elder brethren to advise was discussed and several spoke appreciatively of the help received and the valuable experience gained by the action of elder brethren who invited them to attend the meetings for the care of the assembly. In this way they faced the practical difficulties of the work of the Lord before the spiritual weight of such difficulties fell upon their shoulders.
It was observed that the responsibility for commendation rested with the elders of the local assembly. But that where these were not well informed about conditions in the country in which service was contemplated, it seemed wise to seek the advice of brethren more intimately acquainted with those conditions. The competency of the brethren at Bath to advise, their readiness to do so, and the value of their judgment and help was spoken of with esteem.
The advisability of some training in building and similar crafts if a person was about to go to an undeveloped country was commended. And the great usefulness of some medical training to keep oneself in health and to use in the work in such countries was urged.
Brethren spoke of the advisability of a young man spending the early part of his service abroad along with an experienced servant of the Lord. Missionaries and others also commended the wisdom of such a worker reserving his ideas of service in a foreign land until some time had been spent in the country and he had become thoroughly acquainted with the real conditions.
Warnings were given of the seriousness of men going forth who had not been fitted of God for the work. It was stated that such could be a burden upon the work they essayed to help. Though cases were mentioned in which it was to be observed that the absence of success was not a criterion, but that in these cases additional training and experience were gained which fitted for work elsewhere which was crowned with blessing.
The general impressions gained from the meeting were that it must be the Lord himself who must select the men, form their characters, train and thrust forth workers into the needy fields of the world that the worker must be conscious of the hand of God upon him, and that whilst this was being ratified in the consciousness of others he should he amenable to the advice and help of spiritual, men with a care for the work of the Lord at home and abroad. These impressions were such as to move those present to pray the Lord of the Harvest still more fervently to send forth labourers into His harvest.