Martyr Missions A Trumpet Call by John G. Lake
The following is the transcript from a commissioning sermon John G. Lake delivered to a band of apostolic laborers in Africa before scattering into the dark continent to bear witness to the light of the Gospel a century ago. May his words pierce the hearts of another generation of martyr missionaries mobilizing into the hardest and darkest places of the earth.
The thirteenth chapter of Acts tells us the story of the ordination and sending forth of the apostle Paul, his ordination to the apostleship. Paul never writes of himself until after the thirteenth chapter of Acts. He had been an evangelist and teacher for thirteen years when the thirteenth chapter of Acts was written, and the ordination took place that is recorded there. Men who have a real call are not afraid of apprenticeships.
There is a growing up in experience in the ministry. When Paul started out in the ministry he was definitely called of God and was assured of God through Ananias that it would not be an easy service but a terrific one, for God said to Ananias:
Arise and go into the street which is called Straight and inquire, in the house of Judas, for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake.
That is what Jesus Christ, the crucified and the glorified Son of God, told Ananias to say to the apostle Paul. He was not going to live in a holy ecstasy and wear a beautiful halo, and have a heavenly time, and ride in a limousine. He was going to have a drastic time, a desperate struggle, and a terrific experience. And no man in biblical history ever had more dreadful things to endure than the apostle Paul. He gives a list, in his second letter to the Corinthians, of the things he had endured.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness.
They stripped him of his clothing, and the executioner lashed him with an awful scourge, until bleeding and lacerated and broken, he fell helpless, and unconscious and insensible, then they doused him with a bucket of salt water to keep the maggots off, and threw him into a cell to recover. That was the price of apostleship! That was the price of the call of God and His service. But God said, “He shall bear My Name before the gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel.” He qualified as God’s messenger.
Beloved, we have lost the character of consecration here manifested. God is trying to restore it in our day. He has not been able to make such progress with the average preacher on that line. All too often, it is, “Mrs. So and So said so and so, and I am just not going to take it!” That is the kind of preacher, with another kind of call; not the heavenly call; not the God call; not the death call if necessary. That is not the kind the apostle Paul was, or was called to be.
Do you know why God poured out His Spirit in South Africa like He did no where else in the world? There was a reason. This example will illustrate. We had one hundred and twenty-five men out on the field at one time. We were a very young institution and were not known in the world. South Africa is seven thousand miles from any European country. It is ten thousand miles by way of England to the United States. Our finances got so low, under the awful assault we were compelled to endure, that there came a time I could not even mail to these workers, at the end of the month, a $10 bill. It got so I could not send them $2. The situation was desperate. What was I to do? Under these circumstances I did not want to take the responsibility of leaving men and their families on the frontier without real knowledge of what the conditions were.
Some of us at headquarters sold our clothes in some cases, sold certain pieces of furniture out of the house, sold anything we could sell, to bring those hundred and twenty-five workers off the field for a conference.
One night in the progress of the conference I was invited by a committee to leave the room for a minute or two. The conference wanted to have a word by themselves. So I stepped out to a restaurant for a cup of coffee, and came back. When I came back in, I found they had rearranged the chairs in an oval, with a little table at one end, and on the table was the bread and wine. Old Father Vanderwall, speaking for the company said, “Brother John, during your absence we have come to a conclusion. We have made our decision. We want you to serve the LORD’s Supper. We are going back to our fields. We are going back if our wives die. We are going back if we have to starve. We are going back if we have to walk back. We are going back if our children die. We are going back if we die ourselves. We have but one request. If we die, we want you to come and bury us.”
The next year I buried twelve of those men, along with sixteen of their wives and children.
In my judgment, not one of them, if they had a few things a white man needs to eat, could but what might have lived. Friends, when you want to find out why the power of God came down from heaven in South Africa like it never came down before, since the time of the apostles, there is your answer.
Jesus Christ put the spirit of martyrdom in the ministry. Jesus instituted His ministry with a pledge unto death. When He was with the disciples on the last night, He took the cup, “when He drank, saying.” Beloved, the “saying” was the significant thing. It was Jesus Christ’s pledge to the twelve who stood with Him, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood.” Then He said, “Drink ye all of it!”
Friends, those who were there and drank to that pledge, of Jesus Christ, entered into the same covenant and purpose that he did. That is what all the pledges mean. Men have pledged themselves in the same cup from time immemorial. Generals have pledged their armies unto death. It has been a custom in the human race. Jesus Christ sanctified it to the Church forever, bless God!
“My blood in the New Testament… Drink all of it!” Let us become one. Let us become one in our purpose to die for the world. Your blood and mine together. “My blood is the New Testament.” That is my demand from you. It is your high privilege!
Dear friends, there is not an authentic history that can tell us whether any one of them died a natural death. We know that at least nine of them were martyrs, possibly all. Peter died on a cross, James was beheaded. For Thomas they did not even wait to make a cross they nailed him to an olive tree. John was sentenced to be executed at Ephesus by putting him in a cauldron of boiling oil, God delivered him, and his executioners refused to repeat the operation, and he was banished to the Isle of Patmos. John thought so little about it that he never even tells of the incident. He says, “I was in the Isle called Patmos, for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” That was explanation enough. He had committed himself to Jesus Christ for life or death.
Friends, the group of missionaries that followed me went without food, and went without clothes, and once when one of my preachers was sunstruck, and had wandered away, I tracked him by the blood marks of his feet. Another time I was hunting for one of my missionaries, a young Englishman, twenty-two years of age. He had come from a line of Church of England preachers for five hundred years. When I arrived at the native village the old native chief said, “He is not here. He went over the mountains, and you know him, he is a white man and he has not learned to walk barefooted.”
That is the kind of consecration that established Pentecost in South Africa. That is the reason we have a hundred thousand native Christians in South Africa. That is the reason we have 1250 native preachers. That is the reason we have 350 white Churches in South Africa. That is the reason that, today, we are the most rapidly growing Church in South Africa!