The Gospel has always progressed to a pattern of plan and circumstance. Sometimes a plan has been laid which circumstances, whether of opposition or opportunity, have molded: “Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth” was the plan the Saviour gave; yet it was persecution that first sent witnesses out to Judaea and Samaria “preaching the Word.” Sometimes it has been the other way around. An opportunity has been seen and plans have been molded to seize it; then much has depended on the Church’s response.
It was so in the earliest days when the apostles moved across the ancient world. It was so in the great periods of expansion of the Christian Church. Perhaps Pope Gregory’s remark “Not Angles but angels,” leading to Augustine’s mission to England, is a famous medieval example of opportunity seen and taken with careful planning and, as a result, the establishment of a church in new territory. In more modern times, the American Baptists in Burma switched their main emphasis from the unresponsive Burmans to the Karens on discovering the Karen belief that a white man with a book would come to teach the truth. The Karen church is now one of the strongest in South East Asia.
Christians today have greater facilities than ever to focus prayer and support on any new opportunity. Only the Holy Spirit can create a church, but every good means should be concentrated for His use, even as a country at war mobilizes its resources for its commander-in-chief. Unfortunately the man in the pew often believes that no virgin soil is left, that the churches have merely to expand in non-Christian parts already occupied, however thinly, and thus he fails ...1
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