Typical reports from our missionaries tell us how many people have been fed or how many orphans cared for—in general, how our humanitarian good works and personal friendship witness to the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. And if the report adds that a soul or two or a family have put their faith in Jesus, we rejoice.
Nearly non-existent from typical missionaries are reports similar to those recorded in Acts, where often compelling miracles brought impressive numbers to the Lord. Is there a scriptural reason for this difference?
It is indeed hard to find the reason in the New Testament—unless of course one subscribes to some variation of cessationism whereby the miraculous as recorded in the gospels and Acts are no longer “prescription” for today but are simply “description” of what took place back then. Cessationism indeed provides a conveniently exculpatory and almost self-congratulatory cover for the Church.
But if we in fact believe that missions today should follow the pattern we see in Acts, then the Church has no answer—at least no satisfactory answer why the miraculous no long occurs. If we don’t place the blame for the dearth of the miraculous on God—as cessationists essentially do—then there is only one party left to blame: we, the Church. (We have learned not to blame the devil every time we fail to live up to expectations.)
The blame lies in the Church’s failure to teach believers how to heal the sick and cast out demons as Jesus did when he sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God to those who never heard. Instead the Church teaches various traditions which have been handed down from previous generations of leaders and teachers—man’s traditions which do not follow the pattern set by Jesus in the gospels when he healed the sick.
That is the primary reason why miracles on the mission field are so very rare. That is primarily why the record of contemporary missions falls so far short of what we see in Acts in terms of the miraculous resulting in impressive harvests for the gospel.