Is Bethlehem or the Baptist General Conference engaged in frontier missions as the apostle Paul conceived it? Answer: Some, but not much.
Most of what our missionaries do may be called regular or assistance missions rather than frontier missions. Regular missions is what you do when you cross a culture to assist an established church to minister to people of its own kind. This kind of partnership is needed up to a point but requires tremendous insight to know what kind of expatriate help is causing long term dependence.
Paul's conception of frontier missions is seen in Romans 15:19-24.
From Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ, thus making it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on another man's foundation, but as it is written,
They shall see who have never been told of him, and they shall understand who have never heard of him.
. . . Since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain.
It is astonishing that Paul considered his mission complete from Jerusalem as far around as northwest Italy. None of the churches in that region could have been older than 25 years, and most of them much younger. Yet Paul said his work was done. He did not establish a mission station and call to Antioch for reinforcements and settle down to assist the national church for a lifetime. He headed for Spain.
Paul's conception of frontier missions is that it is constantly pressing beyond where the church is established to places where there is no witness to Christ.
My concern is not to criticize regular missions. My concern is to ask whether in our church or denomination there is a structure for the promotion and implementation of frontier missions as Paul understood it? The question is not: Is what we are doing bad? The question is: Are we doing all we should be? And: Is the allocation of our personnel and funds in accord with the biblical priorities?
Do we need to create an unleashed agency in the BGC called S.A.F.E.—Society for the Advancement of Frontier Evangelism? Should we not give the option to the churches whether they want to fund mainly assistance missions or mainly frontier missions? And do we not need to give a totally open-ended appeal to the young people of our churches that if God calls you to a frontier and equips you to go, we will send you?
Dreaming of the finished task,