The Supremacy of Christ and World Mission: The Sustaining Hope for the Cause of SVM2

by David Bryant
David, founder of Proclaim Hope!, is a statesman for revival and global proclamation and a veteran prayer leader.

How important is the largeness of your vision of Christ to sustaining your commitment and effectiveness in the cause of world evangelization? Much more than you might realize!

William Carey, considered in some quarters the father of modern Protestant missions, had a good grasp on implications for world outreach of the fullness of Christ’s supremacy. This was evidenced in his widely-acclaimed research published in 1792 on the state of unevangelized peoples.

Titled An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians, the volume drew on promises in Isaiah and other texts to argue the need for ongoing revival and missions.

Shortly after its publication, at a district conference for his Baptist denomination, Carey and his little prayer band challenged leaders to recover a Christ-exalting hope for the missionary cause. His arguments prevailed.

With palpable zeal the current era in global evangelism ensued, eventually mobilizing the Church worldwide to unleash unprecedented approximations of the consummate triumph of the Kingdom.

In the end, it wasn’t just statistics on global needs that roused God’s servants. Much more, it was the overarching message of Christ’s supremacy.

Abounding expectations in Him broke the missionary logjam of indifference and unbelief in the 19th century, on both sides of the Atlantic. “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God,” Carey preached to every believer.

He was convinced foretastes of the Final Victory awaited all who would join Christ in the glorious enterprise of world missions.

The same was true of another breakthrough a few decades later. It surfaced at a unique young men’s gathering led by D.L. Moody in Massachusetts during the summer of 1886.

One night in the final week of a month of meetings, after ten international students told about the needs of their homelands, the Spirit of God fell in a marvelous way upon those assembled. God harnessed their hearts with hope in Christ.

Many of the youth spent the next hours walking alone under the stars to wrestle with God in prayer about His plan for their lives. This visitation climaxed the following day when exactly 100 volunteered for missionary service.

That was the beginning of one of the greatest missionary recruitment movements in church history, known as The Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (or SVM).

How did they become so boldly visionary? It happened as they fixed youthful spirits not only on Jesus as Lord but also on immediate possibilities for experiencing approximations of the final triumphs of His global cause. Anticipating God’s promises, they were willing to “go” no matter what.

In the early years of the 21st century, many trends in world evangelization indicate that a hope fixed on a vision of the full extent of Christ’ supremacy – the hope of Carey and the SVMers — is still utterly appropriate.

University scholar Philip Jenkins, in his 2003 compendium The Next Christendom, used extensive research to fortify the perception that “Christianity exercises an overwhelming global appeal, which shows not the slightest sign of waning.”

He called today’s Christian movement “an uncontrollable brush fire” extending into every nation. The explosive growth of the Church outside the West has become a harbinger of a Christianity soon to be truly global in scope.

In 1900, for instance, approximately 10 million Christians were in Africa. By 2000 there were 360 million. By 2025 conservative projections put the number at nearly 600 million. All total, by 2050 we anticipate three billion Christians worldwide. That’s one and a half times the number projected for Muslims.

What I’m suggesting is that the mission of the Church is more than a consequence of Christ’s dominion over the nations. It is equally a manifestation of it. World evangelization opens the way for fuller executions of His victorious reign.

At this moment, our Lord is bringing about unconditional surrender among all earth’s peoples. He’s doing so redemptively, in a way characteristic of the fuller surrender of all creation to Him when He re-appears in His glory.

Thus, the Church’s global mission should seek to influence all of life with the blessings of Jesus’ lordship. We should do so in a manner commensurate with how we expect this to be experienced in the Kingdom-to-Come.

For example, more and more Christians are replacing the idea of one’s “work place” with the term “life place”. The shift is significant.

It reminds us that all believers have been called and are sent by God to specific places and people as our assigned focus for outreach for Christ — in home, school, business, media, health care, factory, neighborhood, government.

On the other hand, world evangelization must always give primacy to the planting of churches among the thousands of unreached people groups worldwide. Mission leaders today talk about “a church for every people and the Gospel for every person”.

What a statement this is on Christ’s rights as Redeemer King. For His sake, we must be about the business of setting up bases of operation around the globe so that His hope-filled message can impact every culture.

Through evangelism and missions, the Church creates possibilities for a significant measure of Christ’s consummate reign to break into the present among the lost. Every newly established congregation can serve as a dynamic entry point for His advancing Kingdom to have its impact.

The answer is clear: First, we must confront and cure the crisis of supremacy that paralyzes so much of the Church and its mission right now. The crisis is a short fall in how most of us see, seek, and speak about God’s Son for who that He really is.

Many Christians need to be “reconverted” back to Christ for ALL that He is and re-embrace the consummate vision of our Lord’s greatness and glory. Anything less will prove incapable of sustaining world outreach at the level at which it is required today.

Anything less will fail to recruit the hosts of missionary personnel we so urgently need, as well as the army of supporters to send them.

The fact is, over the centuries missionaries compelled by the hope of Christ’s supremacy have been found rooting again and again for the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the unreached.

With the Consummation as their touchstone, these laborers have tackled down-to-earth realities even as they preached the Gospel of eternal life. They defended the poor. They fought for moral and social transformation.

They opposed evils like slavery, widow burning and infanticide at every turn. They emerged as walking revolutions. They themselves became approximations of the Consummation. Why can’t the same happen again in our generation?

I’ve seen Christ’s reign displayed in equal fashion through varieties of churches and Christian ministries working among some of earth’s most destitute urban communities in places like Manila, Seweto, Calcutta and even New York City.

Unquestionably, as God’s people minister to them in the fullness of Christ’s supremacy, the poor retain front row seats for redemptive dramas that mirror the Consummation. “Through a worldwide migration to the city, God may be setting the stage for Christian mission’s greatest and perhaps final hour”, reflects urban scholar Roger Greenway.

And so it is. With Jesus as Lord, the future is already upon us — and it drives our mission for Him. Daily the Church seeks to saturate the world with this future and its promise (Jer. 29) — with a Message of Hope shaped by Christ’s glorious greatness.

Our task as “World Christians” is, in fact, to infect people everywhere with desires that can only be fulfilled in Christ, so that they turn to pursue Him with all their hearts.

Our privilege is also to enlist lost ones — including the poor, and especially the poor — to participate with Christ in God’s future, laboring with His people toward the Final Victory.

As the primary manifestation of Christ’s supremacy in this hour of history, world missionary outreach not only exposes people to the promises of God but summons them into a life of readiness for so much more (Rom. 5).

While anticipating the royal return of God’s Regent, the Church must also remain prepared, at any given moment, to experience greater displays of His dominion right now — to step into practical involvements with Him in the advance of His Kingdom right where they live, as well as to the ends of the earth.

Oh, may the Church everywhere awake to God’s Son for ALL that He is! The nations are waiting.

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