They're Still Telling William Carey to Sit Down

In the late 1700s, a young William Carey had his missionary passion pooed on by the older church establishment. He stood up in a meeting to talk about the importance of reaching the unreached, and an older pastor interrupted him, saying famously,

“Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without your aid or mine.”

This well known quote has become a monument of shame to whoever said it. It seems crazy, ignorant, and extreme. But actually, we’d be foolish to believe that no-one talks like this anymore.

In this nice summary of William Carey’s life the author made a passing statement that I’d like to challenge. Speaking of the famous anti-missions outburst he or she writes:

That such an attitude is inconceivable today is largely due to the subsequent efforts of that young man, William Carey.

Sadly, this attitude not inconceivable at all. In fact, it’s quite common. That same spirit that told William Carey to sit down is alive and very active in churches, board meetings, Bible Schools, and Christian families all over.

I met a young guy who was passionate to give up everything and reach the most unreached. Him and his wife were feeling super convicted and aching to go. He told his pastor, and his pastor promptly rebuked him, saying “No, you shouldn’t go! There are 4 lost people right here, attending our church. You should stay and work to reach them!”

Stay home from 40 million unreached people to reach 4 people in the church? Ridiculous, right?

But I’ve heard soooo many cases like this…

Churches or sending groups will tell people they can’t go because they’re single. They’ll justify this madness by saying it’s culturally inappropriate, or unhealthy, or anything to shut them down.

Others will telling a woman that she can’t be a real missionary, because she’s a woman.

Bible schools will discourage people from dropping their (often unnecessary) degrees and going to the field. They’ll tell the eager young people that they need more ‘equipping’ to be ‘effective’ and help them fill out student loan forms, propping up the school budget and putting the would-be missionaries in deeper bondage to debt.

Churches will actively shut out talk about missions, or pass off large swaths of lost people as ‘destined never to be saved.’

Fellow believers will encourage a committed young missionary to ‘be open to God’s leading,’ to ‘settle down’ and marry some beautiful girl who wants to live the American dream, far away from the unreached.

Churches will try to pull missionaries back away from the field, tempting them with comfortable, respectable, and spiritually promising ministry positions back home.

Christian parents plead with their children not to go to the unreached. They’ll cry, guilt and shame their kids in staying home, even actively conspire to hold them back. They’ll work to poison the grandchildren’s minds, trying to discourage them from going overseas with their parents.

Pastors, leaders, and professors will tell people to do something more respectable, to use their education and high standing, to worry about their financial future, or to invest more in the local church.

Even once people get on the field, it doesn’t stop. Some missions leaders discourage people from doing evangelism, saying it doesn’t work. They’ll tell people to get off the streets with lost people and do something proper, something useful. Some make it difficult for them, ordering workers to do all kinds of busy work and leaving little time in their schedules to get out and meet the unreached they’re living among.

I wish these cases were outlandish or exaggerated, but they’re not. They’re just a few of the heartbreaking examples that I see all the time.

Meanwhile, 33% of the world still doesn’t get a witness of Christ.

Whenever a young William Carey stands up with a heart overflowing with Christ’s compassion for the lost, someone in authority tells them to shut up and sit down.

This is what makes articles like this so disturbing and unhelpful. Just because something has the label of a ‘church’ or someone is an ‘elder’ does not mean that they speak God’s authoritative will over your life.

I’ve known extremely gifted and fruitful missionaries that were delayed for 10-12 years, because their churches just didn’t get it, or didn’t care.

Please understand, this is not an attempt to be negative towards the church. This is just a heart-felt plea to stay alert and aware of the devil’s schemes. This anti-missions, gospel-impeding spirit can rear its ugly head in even the best of circles. It can be heard from even the best of people. After all, Jesus even faced it from his own, dearly loved, God-given twelve disciples!

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” (Matthew 16:22)

So what did Jesus do when he heard this? Did he get discouraged? Did he slow down and turn his course? Did he bow his head and submit to Peter’s advice? No. He recognized it for what it was: pure evil.

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23)

Satan will use human concerns in Christian people to keep people from giving their lives for Christ. Of course he’ll do anything he can to keep the world in darkness.

So, when you encounter these voices from the enemy–spoken through good, respectable, and important people–do what Jesus did. Do what William Carey did: Ignore them and keep going.

Finally, a last little note to the William Careys out there today:

The body of Christ is bigger than whatever little circle is currently around you. They may or may not be in line with God’s heart for the lost. That’s ok. You don’t need their blessing. You don’t need their approval. You are free to get blessing, encouragement, and sending from anywhere in the body of Christ. God will give you all the encouragement, confirmation, and support you need from real, Spirit-formed community as you humble yourself, seek fellowship and follow him. That’s all you need. Don’t get hung up by a few people who aren’t excited about you going. Go!

Share this on...