Should We Be Concerned about Reformation at Home?

Absolutely! Because the folks that we send to do the work of evangelism come from our home churches. This point has been driven home to me in a fresh way the last two weeks as my family has hosted missionaries our church sent out to an unreached people group 5 years ago. By the grace of God, they were able to see several people converted and plant a church among these people who formerly had no church. Their time on the field has been hard. And they have been refined by the Lord–at some points in very severe ways. Listening to their stories of the obstacles that stand in the way of evangelizing on the last frontier reminds of the need to remain faithful in working for biblical reformation here at home. The vision of American Christianity that much of the Muslim world has is quite different from the press reports we write and read about ourselves. Too often, the faith that we export via our missionaries is anemic, severely deficient of doctrinal strength. If the sending churches have an undetected (or at least untreated) virus, there is great probability that the receiving people groups will be infected as the gospel takes root among them.

In the last century Austin Phelps of Andover Seminary undertood this when he said, “If I were a missionary in Canton, China, my first prayer every morning would be for the success of American Home Missions, for the sake of Canton, China” (Call of the South, published by the Publicity Department of the Home Mission Board of the SBC, Atlanta, 1920, p 217).

Reformation and missions go hand-in-hand. If we do not strengthen our churches at home, we will ultimately undermine the effects of the gospel abroad. Do not shrink back from the hard work of reformation. Do not let others around you ignore its importance. Don’t let anyone intimidate you into thinking that if you are concerned to order your life and see churches ordered by the word of God that somehow that undermines the evangelistic missionary impulse that the gospel is to have in the world.

And if you are a pastor, don’t be so selfish with your time! There are other pastors who need to think about the things you’re thinking about. If you simply order your own life and your own church and you’re not winsomely trying to come along your brother pastors to challenge them and encourage them to start thinking about important things like church life and health, then you are not engaged enough in the work of reformation.

We need to continue to send missionaries–may God raise up even more! But we must never, ever cease the work of reformation.

I have written more extensively on this subject in a chapter entitled, “Reformation and Missions,” in the book, Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches (Founders Press, Cape Coral, FL, 2002).

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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