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Words: Evelyn Renatus Hassé (b. _____, 1855; d, May ___, 1918)
Music: Constance (Sullivan), by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (b. May 13, 1842; d. Nov. 22, 1900)
Note: Evelyn [EE-va-lin, a man’s name] Hassé was a Moravian pastor, in England. The Moravians were known both for their fervent hymn singing and their missionary zeal. The pastor helped revise the Moravian hymn book.
In the 1960’s, American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan became a voice of social revolution in the anti-war and civil rights movements south of the border. His song, The Times They Are A-changin’, released in 1964, defined an era:
“Your old road is rapidly agin’;
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend a hand,
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Change there certainly was. But it has mutated into a culture of perpetual change. That is, change seems to be more and more what essentially describes western society. The gradual transformation of cultural norms has been picking up speed like a snowball rolling downhill and becoming an avalanche. The presumed shackles of old methods and old conventions are being thrown off, for good or ill, and today is a stranger to yesterday.
This phenomenon has significantly affected Christian missions. Just before His ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ issued what we call the Great Commission. It’s given in some form in all four Gospels, and at the beginning of Acts. The followers of Christ are commanded to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mk. 16:15), and the Lord promised, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me…to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“Witnesses”–the Greek word is martus, from which we get our English word martyr, and the early missionaries were quite aware that they could well pay with their lives for their faithfulness to Christ (Acts 20:24). Following the birth of the church, the apostles and their followers began to obey Christ’s call. Paul may have reached Spain, on a missionary trip not covered by the Scriptures, and there is strong evidence that Thomas reached India, and founded many local churches there. Both died a martyr’s death.
In her 1983 book, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, historian Ruth Tucker chronicles twenty centuries of world missions. It is a record service and sacrifice, of facing great challenges with glowing faith and steadfast endurance, and of many who paid the ultimate price to carry the gospel to distant lands. The dangers and difficulties did not seem to deter them.
Tucker tells how, in 1934, American missionaries to China, John and Betty Stam, were slain by the Communist Chinese. Christians across the world grieved over the tragedy. Even so, that did not stem the flow. In response, dedicated young people volunteered for missionary service to fill the gap, and the China Inland Mission received more financial support that year than since the beginning of the Great Depression.
Has the gospel changed? No. The world still needs Christ, as there is only one way of salvation, not two or twenty (Jn. 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:30-31; I Jn. 5:11-12).
But “the times they are a-changin’.” As we’ve moved from the twentieth into the twenty-first century, the fires of missionary zeal across North America have increasingly dimmed. It has become more and more difficult for churches to support missionaries, and mission agencies to recruit full-time workers who are willing to serve the Lord, whatever the cost. The materialism of the age has so often infested the church, and religious pluralism–the idea that all religions are equally valid–has intimidated many.
There are exceptions, of course, but overall it is a depressing picture. We need the kind of Spirit-empowered revival called for in Pastor Hassé’s hymn.
CH-1) Almighty Lord, whose sovereign right
Extends o’er every nation,
We bless Thee for the gospel light
That brought to us salvation.
And unto Thee we raise our prayer
For all in darkness dwelling,
That they with us Thy light may share,
With us Thy praise be telling.
CH-3) As with Thine eyes, Lord, may we see
The world in darkness lying;
And may Thy love the motive be
To save the lost, the dying.
The precious harvest waiting lies,
But few the workers number—
O church of Christ! arise! arise!
Arouse thee from thy slumber!
CH-4) Lord, Lord, the impulse must be Thine,
Forgive our sloth, our dullness;
O quicken us with life divine,
With all Thy Spirit’s fullness.
So may our love and faith increase.
Our fervour and devotion;
To speed the messengers of peace
O’er every land and ocean.
1) What is your own evaluation of the commitment to world missions where you live, and in your own church?
2) What can be done to increase and deepen this commitment?