The Pharisees were characterized by missional zeal. Unfortunately, it was missional zeal for Pharisaism, but you can’t have everything.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).
Actually, the principle that Jesus applies to the Pharisees here extends far beyond the boundaries of their particular set of hypocrisies. The principle is this: you export whatever it is you are manufacturing.
What you practice at home is the show you take on the road. What you grow in your fields is what you load on the trucks. Compassing sea and land doesn’t generate a new message. The way you live when you get on the plane is going to be the single best indicator of how you live when you get off the plane. In short, don’t expect geographical location to fix anything.
Jesus applies this to the active presence of Pharisaical hypocrisy. But it also applies to negative spaces. Not only do you export what you have, you cannot export what you don’t have.
This is why reformation and revival in our churches here is a necessary precondition for effective evangelism there. Say that someone says he has a real burden “for the lost” in Wango Bango. Say that the person at church he is speaking to suggests they spend that afternoon going door-to-door at student housing for the local university. There are lost people here too. Suppose further that the evangelistic ardor of the prospective missionary suddenly wanes. This is a bad sign, and it is a bad sign of what I am talking about.
If the motive force for a church’s evangelism is excitement over the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, then that evangelism will be in evidence both locally and in foreign missions. But if 98% of the evangelism done by a church is overseas, they are trying to export something they do not have. And because the appropriate motive force is missing, and the mission work still needs to be sustained, there is a distinct drift in how the workj is maintained. We suddenly find ourselves in the world of guilt manipulation and blood on the envelope appeals.
The first step in foreign missions is domestic mission. The first step toward Africa is right across the street.